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UMW mathematics major lands NASA internship

UMW News Bureau

nathan-bollUniversity of Montana Western mathematics major Nathan Boll will be extending his knowledge through an eight-week internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif. in summer 2012.

Boll will be working in the Mars Exploration Program. He will participate in the exploration of possible landing sites for robotic missions to Mars. The program focuses on one broad question: is there life on Mars?

To help answer the question,scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab are implementing a strategy called “Follow the Water.” By using robots to collect samples of rocks on the surface of the planet, scientists hope to discover whether Mars ever sustained life, and if so, could sustain life again.

Boll will be present when one of the Mars robots comes back to Earth and said the opportunity to be present for such a momentous event will be inspiring.

“To be in the room when it’s touching down is going to be outstanding,” Boll explained.

Boll’s internship is paid for through the Montana Space Grant Consortium (MSGC). The stated goal of MSGC is to “promote a strong science, math, and technology base” in Montana.

Boll credited Montana Western professors Eric Wright and Rob Thomas for helping to prepare him for the internship. Boll plans to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in physics when he finishes his education at Montana Western. For the time being, the ambitious mathematics major is looking forward to his next challenge.

“I’m elated,” Boll said. “It’s an honor to have been selected.”