by Russ Cooper
Since she was a little girl, Niloofar Moradi
had dreams of working at NASA. If she ever wished for this upon a star, after this summer, she's one step closer to it.
"To become an astronaut has always been my dream. I never knew this could happen and there I was. As an intern, yes, but there I was."
The fourth-year mechanical engineering student overcame many obstacles to spend six weeks this summer at the NASA Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland, Ohio as part of the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation
(CIADI) Global program.
The program is a chance for ENCS undergrads to work with aerospace companies in various locations and contribute to real industry engineering projects. Students are not graded, but are required to attend progress meetings, give presentations and submit a report at the end of their contract.
What started in 2001 with 26 students and six industrial partners has now grown to over 100 students with 26 partners. Over its history, CIADI Global participants have ventured to PWC in Poland, Embraer in Brazil, Airbus Spain, Lufthansa in San Diego, and beyond.
In Cleveland, Moradi joined a team running tests to increase the efficiency of a specific type of compressor. She worked to collect data, refine it into understandable segments and provide insight for its application to project goals.
As it turns out, the 22-year old Moradi nearly didn't have the chance to do any of those things. Iranian-born and living in Montreal for five years, she only received her Canadian citizenship three days before her departure June 4.
Not to be dissuaded by bureaucratic rigmarole, Moradi had never been to the U.S. before this trip. Another hurdle? This would be the first time she'd ever lived away from home.
"I went through quite a bit [to have this experience]," she says. "I know it made me a lot stronger."
Once she arrived, she states the experience would've been much more difficult if it weren't for her supervisor and mentor NASA Aerospace Engineer Edward Braunscheidel. Along with working professionally side-by-side, Braunscheidel also helped Moradi with day-to-day aspects of life often forgotten by someone who's out of her element for the first time.
"He showed me around, he helped me get a cell phone, he helped me with so much," she says. "He is one of the best people I've met in my life."
"She was very nice to work with. She was very responsible and receptive to the work. It was a great experience," says Braunscheidel.
In hearing about the life of an astronaut first-hand, she's gained perspective about the personal and professional sacrifices one must make to chase that dream. For now, though, Moradi is concentrating on her final year, taking it one small step at a time.
"We have an expression in Persian; when you throw an apple in the air, it turns a thousand times before it reaches your hand. I'm going to stop planning and wait for the apple to fall back into my hand before I check what side is up."