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York College students shoot for the stars with NASA co-op experience

January 30, 2017
Marissa Gochar

Marissa Gochar can still remember going to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as a young girl.

Her father worked at the space research laboratory a few miles northeast of Washington, D.C., and it was there the Maryland native’s interest in engineering took off.

When she grew up, she was determined to create her own path.                   

“I wanted to find my own way,” she said.

Her journey started at York College of Pennsylvania in the Department of Engineering and Computer Science.

“When I was first looking at schools, I wanted a place where I would set myself up for success in academics,” Marissa said.

Along with her education came an opportunity to work for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida last fall.

Marissa, now a senior, applied for the co-operative education program, a required learning tool of the York College Engineering program, and got in.

For 16 weeks, she worked with others on the center’s launch system — specifically, helping ensure problems with rockets are reported back to staff through the computer system before launch.

The work focused more on computers than her past projects in mechanical engineering, but the months at NASA brought both an exciting new experience and a trip down memory lane.

“It guided me back to my roots,” she said, “and I felt that it was really meaningful work.”

Uncovering the mysteries of space

Marissa isn’t the only recent York College student in the Engineering and Computer Science Department who can say she added NASA to her resume.

Like her classmate, Alexandria Veth’s fascination with the mystery and possibilities of space started when she was young. The Danville, Pennsylvania, native came to York College with that curiosity, as well as a background in engineering in large part thanks to her father, a mechanic.

And she’s long hoped after her studies to take a very specific next step.

“NASA’s always been my dream job,” she said, “and going from York College to NASA as a senior I was absolutely ecstatic.”

Alexandria spent last spring semester at Goddard Space Flight Center, working in cryogenics on a balloon mission project to detect light left over from the Big Bang. To her, it was thrilling, cutting-edge work.

“To think I’m working on something going into outer space, it just filled me with a huge amount of joy,” she said.

Find your own path

A journey to the stars, creating something that makes it there or any another innovative pursuit can start later this month at York College for those interested in pursuing a career in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Engineering and Computer Science Day will be held on January 28 at the Kinsley Engineering Center on York College’s campus. Prospective students will spend the day exploring the labs, visiting with faculty and admissions staff, and listening to a panel of successful program graduates and employers who have hired York College engineering and computer science students.

Current students will chat and answer questions, and all who attend will complete an engineering or computer science project, and perhaps a new path to pursue their passion.

“The program and facilities here are just amazing,” Alexandria said. “Everyone wants you to succeed, and that makes it a great environment to grow.”

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