Friday, December 15, 2017

Give Her Some Space

September 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Highlights

UNLV senior Amber Alexis Turner is rock-solid at NASA

Amber Alexis Turner

Amber Alexis Turner looks forward to graduating from UNLV next year with a degree in geology. The Las Vegas native — and Army reservist — comes from a strong family of college graduates, and her scientific brilliance has delivered unique opportunities: an internship at UNLV’s High Pressure Science Engineering Center, under the guidance of Dr. Oliver Tschauner, which ultimately led to an internship opportunity at NASA in Houston.

“I study how minerals change chemical composition and physical makeup when exposed to high pressure temperatures at the UNLV lab,” she said. “That gives us insight into meteorite activity and how minerals behave in the mantle of our earth.”

Turner’s lab experience helped her qualify for the competitive internship at NASA. She impressed the attendees at a national symposium, and was soon approached by a representative of NASA contractor Jacob Technologies about applying for the prestigious internship.

“My internship studying meteorite activity helped me secure an internship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before working at NASA — and gave me the opportunity to work with material scientists and physicists on projects that UNLV prepared me for,” she said. “While working my second internship at the national laboratory, I had the opportunity to utilize advanced machines to conduct my research and then present that research at a national symposium. Dr. Lisa Danielson walked up to me after my symposium presentation, and encouraged me to apply for her internship program working for NASA — because it was essentially the same work I was already doing. My experience positioned me to be one of the more competitive candidates that was  chosen for the NASA’ internship.”

Asked to explain why her field of study is so important to the world, Turner responds that “rocks and minerals tell stories about our past and our future. … Different processes make different minerals, and the study of these minerals can teach us about what happens on our planets. The study of meteorites on Earth, Mars, and their chemical makeup can give conclusions about the geologic process on our planets. I gave my symposium presentation on the green mineral Olivine that is found on the upper mantle of the earth, moon and in meteorites. By studying its behavior with pressures and temperatures, we learn about how a meteorite behaves in space — and how this mineral changes on the upper mantle of earth.”

Turner said that she loves working at NASA, and hopes to return to the agency after completing graduate school. “NASA is a great place and I feel so happy here,” she said. “Everyone at NASA is so excited about what they are researching and it makes a fun working environment. I was happy to see many African-American scientists there, and hope my story inspires others to pursue a career in science.”

She added: “My advice to young people who are interested in the sciences is this: to become their own advocate. They need to be active in the area they are interested in. Don’t just go to class and then try to apply for an internship. You need to go to symposiums, go to conventions, go to conferences, go meet people, and make your own business cards. Sell yourself and be openminded about meeting people. I feel that my work and experience has propelled me into a positive direction, but I know for a fact that my networking ability is what landed me here at NASA.”

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