From manned space missions, to scientific advances, to fodder for Hollywood blockbusters, the United States space program has provided inspiration for years.
For University of Houston-Victoria student Pearl Christie, that inspiration was guidance toward her chosen career.
A Houston native with a lifelong interest in technology, Christie recently completed an internship at the Johnson Space Center’s robotics branch. With direction from her mentor, Dr. Kimberly Hambuchen, a NASA engineer, she received hands-on experience in designing the look and feel of human robotic interfaces. The functionality of these interfaces was originally developed and programmed by her mentor, and these interfaces enable a NASA engineer to remotely control robots such as the space exploration vehicle and four-wheeled robot rover, Centaur 2.
“It was really an incredible experience,” Christie said. “I learned so much.”
Christie’s main focus and design work focused on look and feel so that robots exhibited a meaningful, effective and user-friendly experience for NASA engineers. Throughout the process, Christie said it was her design work that helped her discover a career interest in the field.
“I have developed a strong interest and passion in effectively designing user interfaces that aim to provide user-friendly experiences during my internship at Johnson Space Center,” Christie said. “I have decided to pursue graduate studies in human computer interactions, and I want to be able to apply my passion for user interfaces, whether it is for the web, mobile, desktop or other devices.”
Computer studies might keep the 23-year-old busy, but it isn’t the only thing that fills her schedule.
When she finds a free minute, she enjoys listening to country music – artists such as Carrie Underwood and Faith Hill are among her favorites. She even once sang at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
“It’s just something I love doing,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
The computer information systems major looks forward to making her mark on the ever-changing technology world. She will graduate with her bachelor’s degree from UHV in May.
She advised others with an interest in technology, science or math to look into a NASA internship, and advised that it pays to be persistent when applying to these competitive internships. More information about applying for a NASA internship opportunity can be found here: http://usrp.usra.edu/
Christie’s best advice for students is to follow their dreams and work hard, because wherever a person’s passion is, that’s where you’re going to naturally excel and make a positive contributing impact in our society and in our world.
The UHV Outstanding Student is an online feature highlighting the exceptional students who attend the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a student, contact Paula Cobler, UHV interim director of marketing and communications, or call 361-570-4350.