Name: Jessica Noviello
Year: Class of 2014
Majors: Earth and Planetary Science, Physics
Minors: Space Science and Engineering, Math
Hometown: Smithtown, NY
If you were anything like me as a child, you fantasized about going to exotic places to discover the inexplicable, amazing secrets of our world. If you’re anything like me now, you’ll still working towards discovering or inventing something that will revolutionize science and engineering as we know it. I may not be able to help with everything, but I’d like to turn your attention to the area above your heads that is called the atmosphere, and, far more importantly, the cosmos that extends far beyond our imagination. In one word: space.
Johns Hopkins has had a good relationship with the final frontier since NASA was started on July 29, 1958. Between the Applied Physics Lab (APL) in Laurel, MD and the Space Telescope and Science Institute (STScI) right across the street from the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy, Hopkins has been on the cutting edge of breathtaking experiments and novel technological devices for years. Despite the depth of our professors’ collective works and understandings, the Hopkins students were only vaguely familiar with current research. Only those who had completed internships through the physics or mechanical engineering departments were involved with space projects.
Three professors sought to change this, so in Fall 2011 Professors Warren Moos and Steven Murray taught the first class of Introduction to Space Science and Technology (171.321). The class was an overview of space project management, balancing scientific and engineering requirements to achieve a goal, and general rocket science. The class requirements were straightforward; a semester to complete a group project, one midterm, weekly homework, and a final. To accomplish these goals, the class was broken down into six groups of five on the very first day and assigned a task, which they could complete with any materials and tools they wanted, so long as it was under $100 million. The professors took care to assign people from different majors in the same group, so everyone could have an area of expertise on the team. The homework and finals were like those of any other class at Hopkins.
The best part of the class, by far, was the guest speakers who came in to give their talks on their backgrounds in space and atmospheric science. We welcomed John Mather, a Nobel laureate in Physics; John Grunsfeld, former astronaut and current NASA Chief Scientist; Elizabeth Turtle, a computer scientist at APL; and Benjamin Zaitchik, an extremely accomplished atmospheric scientist right here on the Hopkins campus in the Earth and Planetary Science department. Professors Murray and Moos also have experience in the field, specifically on the Chandra X-ray Observatory satellite which has allowed us to understand black holes on an entirely new level. The talks were inspirational and motivating, if not absolutely mind-blowing.
A total of 30 students rode the Cosmic Mayflower, becoming pilgrims for what is known today as the Space Science and Engineering minor. As one of those pioneers, I am pleased to present it to you here. The requirements are unique in that you are able to choose four out of five of your classes for the minor, as long as they form a cohesive program oriented towards space research or aerospace engineering. My classes are in the Earth and Planetary Science department, where I’ve taken Remote Sensing of the Environment, Planetary Surface Processes, and Isotopic Geochemistry, and will be taking Past and Future Climates. These classes will allow me to understand the data I will see in the context of known planetary systems, and notice when an anomaly appears.
Despite the freedom to choose your own classes for your concentration, there are some non-negotiable aspects. Any student pursuing the minor must take the Introduction to Space Science and Technology class, and it is suggested you do it first so you can submit a plan for your space minor track. Other departments that are included as acceptable for the minor are: Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Physics, and Biology. You must also plan to have an internship in a space-related field to gain the work experience necessary to the field after graduation. For more information about the minor please contact Joseph Katz or Charles Bennett, and see this website: http://physics-astronomy.jhu.edu/acad/ugrad/minor_ss_eng
My interest in physics and space sent my friends and me to Florida last March to get a behind-the-scenes look at the NASA Kennedy Space Center. I plan to go somewhere equally amazing in the future, and perhaps one day launch a satellite or walk on Mars. It is certainly not something I will give up. I’m very excited to see this program take shape at Hopkins, and I am proud to be the first person approved for this minor. I know I won’t be the last. If you’re anything like me, then you know what it feels like to look up at the stars and wonder what more we have to learn. I hope we never stop._______________________________________________________________________________