Encouraging parents, teachers, and mentors have long urged students to “shoot for the stars.” Alina Creamer ‘20 took that advice more literally than most do: as a rising college freshman, she interned with NASA.
Creamer credits her alma mater, Grassfield High School, and its Governor’s STEM Academy for her interest in aerospace engineering. It was there, at the suggestion of one of her teachers, that Creamer began to explore the possibilities of space travel.
“I want to impact the future of aerospace engineering, to be one of the leaders who will propel our nation to the forefront of space flight,” she said. “Moreover, I am glad I am a part of the Mars Generation; I aspire to work on the team that sends the first human to Mars.”
As a high school sophomore, Creamer was selected to join the Virginia Space Coast Scholars. Through this program, she completed an online course designed by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium and attended a week-long summer academy at NASA Wallops Flight Facility. The following year, Creamer was selected to join a similar program, the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars, which held its summer academy at NASA Langley Research Center.
She believes her involvement in these two initiatives helped her to land one of twelve spots in the Virginia Department of Education’s Summer Residential Governor’s School NASA Mentorship program.
This program not only afforded Creamer four weeks of unpaid work experience at NASA Langley under the Contamination Control and Planetary Protection lead, it prepared her to apply for—and secure—a paid internship as a Launch Orbit Flight Safety Analyst at NASA Wallops Flight Facility this past summer. In this role, Creamer conducted wind drift debris analyses for the OA-5 Antares Mission Launch Availability Study.
“This internship helped me to understand the significance of the flight safety office in protecting the public and environment during rocket launches, exposed me to real-world STEM scenarios, and further developed my soft skills, which are necessary to succeed in a working environment,” Creamer said.
When researching college options, Creamer was initially attracted to NC State because of its College of Engineering, commitment to research, and location in relation to her Chesapeake, Va. home. Her guidance counselor gave her the final push she needed to apply by introducing her to the Park Scholarships program.
“During my Semifinalist interview I remember meeting a couple of Park Scholars,” Creamer recalled, “and the way they presented themselves, the Park Scholarships program, and NC State in such a positive manner caught my attention. I knew they were the types of people I wanted to be around during arguably the biggest transition of my life.”
In her first few months at NC State, Creamer has joined the club tennis team, the Society of Women Engineers, Tacho Lycos (a high power rocketry club), the Astronomy Club, and the Krispy Kreme Challenge marketing committee. She is also a member of the University Scholars Program and the Engineering Village, a residential community on campus.
While she is only beginning to sketch out her academic and career trajectory, Creamer speaks with passion about the future.
“I am beyond excited to watch the commercial spaceflight industry grow,” she said. “After graduation I would like to work as an aerospace engineer at NASA or on the commercial side with Spacex, Orbital, or Boeing.”
Story by Caroline Taney