Undergraduate research experience launches ME student at NASA internship


As someone who has benefited greatly from the encouragement she has received to pursue STEM studies, Mechanical Engineering Senior Olivia Tyrrell wants other girls and women to be inspired to get into STEM as well.

Tyrrell grew up in Downers Grove, Illinois. Although she always had an interest in science as a child, it was a visit to the Argonne National Lab for Women in Science Day led by her high school physics teacher that sparked her interest in engineering at university. .

She chose Iowa State University because of its solid reputation in engineering as well as the scholarship support it has received. She said she was also drawn to the campus and its “great college atmosphere”. Although she entered engineering undeclared, she quickly found her place in Mechanical Engineering (ME).

“I ultimately chose ME because I was interested in potentially working in the medical device health field,” Tyrrell said. “It seemed like ME would suit my various interests more and I felt more secure knowing that I could enter almost any type of tech industry with this degree.”

A big jazz band performs at Memorial Union in November 2018. Mechanical engineering student Olivia Tyrrell stands and plays a solo on her saxophone.
Tyrrell is standing and playing his saxophone solo at a jazz concert in November 2018. Photo courtesy of Olivia Tyrrell

Tyrrell developed his various interests by participating in a handful of engineering activities on campus. She was part of the Biomedical Engineering Society for three years and currently serves as vice president of the club. In her second year, she mentored the learning community for Women in Science and Engineering (Wise). Music is also an important part of Tyrrell’s life. She has played alto saxophone in Iowa State jazz ensembles since arriving on campus. She sees music as a stress reliever and a nice break from the rigors of the ME curriculum.

As a junior, she got involved in research and joined the Multiphase Reacting Flow Lab, working under the guidance of Jacques Michel, assistant professor of ME. Tyrrell took ME 332: Engineering Thermodynamics II with Michael, and said she applied material from this and other courses in her research.

“Exposure to research at the graduate level and strengthening my technical skills in reading, writing, diagnostics and data processing have been extremely beneficial. By giving me the opportunity to work collaboratively and independently on a research topic, Dr Michael has presented me with many research opportunities in the future, ”said Tyrrell, adding that she thinks the experience research program helped her land her current internship. with NASA.

The internship started in January and will end in August. Although the internship is done through NASA Langley Research Center (located just north of Norfolk, Va.) Tyrrell worked remotely from his college apartment in Ames. The internship is with Langley’s Advanced measurement and data systems branch, and much of his work focuses on experimental visualization and simulation of research taking place in Langley wind tunnels, some of which can reach speeds of Mach 10 (10 times the speed of sound).

Through her internship, she also contributed to the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program by providing visualization of the imaging systems that will go to the Moon in 2021 and 2023 as part of a payload called SCALPSS (Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume Surface Studies). She said the knowledge and skills she developed through her fluid mechanics, heat transfer, CAD and Matlab courses were useful throughout her internship experience.

Tyrrell was featured in an article published on the NASA website which spotlighted some of NASA’s interns at Langley as part of Women’s History Month. Encouraging more women and girls to pursue studies and careers in STEM is one of Tyrrell’s passions.

“I think it’s great that more young women are pursuing careers in STEM and I’m definitely an advocate for making the field more diverse as a whole,” Tyrrell said. “Providing encouragement and positive opportunities to people who have not historically been represented in the field can only lead to more success and innovation, in my opinion. “

Tyrrell will be finishing her BS in ME in the fall of 2021. She hasn’t decided what she will do for the next chapter of her life yet, but she knows that whatever her time in Iowa State, she’s got it. prepared for it.

“I hope to return to NASA as an engineer, but I am also considering graduate school to further my education and stay involved in research. I’m really happy that I have a lot of different options and paths to consider right now and I attribute that to the great job Iowa State has done in preparing me to be an effective engineer, ”he said. she declared.

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