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UW-Eau Claire Senior Lands NASA Internship

RELEASED: Nov. 10, 2008

Rochelle Halama
Rochelle Halama

EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire senior mathematics major will spend the spring semester as an intern at a NASA flight facility in Virginia.

Rochelle Halama of Independence will begin her internship Jan. 12, 2009, at the Wallops Flight Facility. During her internship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, she will focus on researching ways to prove software reliability.

"I am so excited; I'm on cloud nine," said Halama, who first applied for the NASA internship more than a year ago and learned in late October that she had been accepted. "Im still pinching myself because I can't believe that it's true."

Halama has worked on research projects at UW-Eau Claire with Dr. Mohamed Elgindi, a professor of mathematics. That experience will help her in the research-centered NASA internship, she said, noting she has limited information about the specifics of her NASA project.

"I don't know a lot about what I'll be doing but I supplied them with a lot of information about my classes and experiences so I'm sure the internship projects will be a great match with my interests and skills," Halama said.

Elgindi — who describes Halama as a serious, motivated and hard-working student — was among those who formally supported Halama's application to NASA.

"Rochelle worked with me on a project titled 'Exploring the Mathematical Models for Calculating Alcohol Concentration in the Blood and the Breath,'" Elgindi said of his faculty-student undergraduate research project that involved Halama."She learned about mathematical modeling, numerical methods for approximating the solutions of ordinary differential equations, and computer programming in Visual Basic for application and Matlab. Rochelle's selection to this very competitive NASA program is another indication of the value of our high quality undergraduate research training at UW-Eau Claire."

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility was established in 1945 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics as a center for aeronautic research. Wallops is now NASA's principal facility for management and implementation of suborbital research programs.

Halama said she applied for the NASA internship because she is determined to succeed and likes to try new things.

"A mass e-mail was sent to all math majors and when I saw it I thought, 'why not me?'" Halama said, noting that she applied to three different NASA programs. "I knew these programs were very competitive but I also knew it would help me a lot in the future if I got one. So I decided to go after it."

Halama, who plans to eventually earn her Ph.D., said working for NASA in the future is a possibility if the internship goes well.

"Working for NASA is now a goal," Halama said. "This experience will help tremendously because many of the people they hire are former interns. I'm also interested in biostatistics, maybe working on clinical trials for AIDS research. I'll get my Ph.D. for sure and go from there."

A math major and biology minor, Halama is a McNair Scholar at UW-Eau Claire. The federally funded McNair program helps eligible first-generation students from low-income families prepare for and enter graduate programs. Each year 10-12 new UW-Eau Claire undergraduate McNair Scholars begin two years of intensive mentoring, specialized curricular and co-curricular offerings, collaborative research and paid internships, all of which help prepare them for graduate school.

Halama said a highlight of recent weeks was calling her parents to tell them their daughter would spend a semester working for NASA.

"They were amazed and very proud of me," Halama said. "It was awesome to be able to call my dad — who is a farmer — to tell him that I had been selected for a NASA internship."

For more information about the NASA internship, contact Rochelle Halama at halamarl@uwec.edu.

-30-

JB

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