Learning by Doing Through a NASA Internship

By Jeanne Leong

Kacey Dougherty’s summer research work has given her experience in conducting studies that could be beneficial to NASA projects.

The senior chemistry major spent 14 weeks through the spring and summer working in the lab of George Kumi, an assistant professor of chemistry at Rutgers University–Camden, using lasers to create designs that could lead to the production of crystals for microreactors in space. Dougherty could spend up to 10 hours to create one miniature 3-D design. Larger designs could take up to six days to produce.

Dougherty developed an interest in chemistry when she took her first chemistry class at Triton Regional High School.

“While most students opted for one year of chemistry, I chose to take two years, of which the first year was honors chemistry, and the second AP chemistry,” says Dougherty, of Blackwood, N.J. “My teachers really pushed me in those classes and made me think outside of the box and told me that I could take more classes in college.”

A first-generation college student, along with her twin sister, Sydney, who also is a student at Rutgers–Camden, Dougherty began conducting research with Kumi in her sophomore year of college. Last winter, he suggested that she apply for the NASA grant to work in his lab over the summer. The grant, administered locally through the New Jersey Space Grant Consortium, has given her invaluable experience in the lab that will be beneficial to her in future research projects.

“I learned a lot of problem-solving skills because some of the things that we wanted to do didn’t end up happening, but I continued working on the issues and eventually finished it,” Dougherty explains.

She plans to continue conducting research with Kumi through her senior year. After graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in chemistry.

Posted in: Research Highlights

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