From WKU to NASA: Zac Colovos' Journey to the Johnson Space Center
- Steven Gibson, Ariadna Sandoya
- Tuesday, March 7th, 2023
Zac Colovos, a third-year Mechanical Engineering student at WKU, is an active member of the WKU Society of Physics Students (SPS) club. In the fall of 2022, Zac secured a coveted spot in the NASA Pathways internship program, which offers fall, spring, and summer "tours" for interns. Zac plans to complete at least three tours, with his second tour scheduled for Summer 2023 and his third for Spring 2024.
His long-standing interest in the program led him to apply three times a year since turning 18 and becoming eligible in 2020. Zac opted for a Zoom interview while he was on an Alaska cruise with his family, which even though it seemed challenging turned out successful.
Zac spent the past two summers working at NASA’s Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama next to the Marshall Space Flight Center where he educated students and even provided a guided tour for the WKU Society of Physics Students chapter in March 2022. During his time at the camp, he received the good news that he had been accepted into the Pathways program.
Zac's NASA Pathways internship took place at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where he worked in the Engineering Directorate for crew sustainability and habitability, specifically within the Crew & Thermal Systems Division’s water filtration team. His work involved monitoring and improving water quality in water recycling systems downstream of evaporative and filtration elements. Zac’s personal projects revolved around the integration of biocidal silver electrolysis and ultraviolet exposure, parametric testing of the reactor for differing levels of influent dissolved oxygen and electrode geometries and spacings. Zac has embraced the opportunity to acquire and apply knowledge outside his area of expertise, including chemistry. His detailed investigation of dendrite growth, a major obstruction to reactor performance, was well received by his branch and the Pathways office. Potential applications of silver biocide use include testing on the International Space Station’s water systems, future space stations orbiting the Earth or the Moon, on lunar bases, or even in voyages to Mars.
Zac was fortunate to have been hosted by Evelyn Husband-Thompson and Bill Thompson, who have close ties with many NASA astronauts and their families. Through these connections, Zac was able to meet several notable members of space exploration, including famous astronaut Chris Hadfield, and he also attended the unmanned test launch of the Artemis moon rocket in September 2022.
Zac said he's still debating whether he wants to attend graduate school, but added that his passion for space has inspired him to consider working for either NASA or a private space company like Sierra Space, which has proposed building a new Earth-orbiting space station. Zac has not ruled out applying for the astronaut corps, although this would require multiple graduate degrees, pilot training, and other endeavors. Regardless of his future path, Zac is thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Pathways program but is eternally grateful for those who have helped him make it possible to follow his dreams. Follow this link for more photos!
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