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Friday, March 15, 2019

Young Alumnus Uses Math, Computer Skills to Help Keep Space Station Astronauts Safe | NASA - Ball State University News

Like a superhero, NASA mathematician Adam Mullins has an origin story, observes Nick Werner, contributing writer for Ball State Magazine.

While studying math and computer science at Ball State, Adam Mullins earned two internships at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. After graduation, he was offered a full-time job there as a risk analyst. During his first internship, Adam assessed spacesuits worn by astronauts when outside the International Space Station. Above, he poses with one such suit, adorned with a non-regulation neck scarf.
Photo: provided by Adam Mullins

And, like all good origin stories, Adam’s involves overcoming a time of intense suffering, followed by a period of reflection and then discovering his true identity.

For Adam, ’18, the story begins in Celina, Ohio. In seventh grade, school came easily, and with little effort. He didn’t take much of an interest in a particular subject though he earned high marks in all of them. Success had made him complacent.

Then, Adam developed a stomach ache.

After three days, the pain became too much. His mom drove him to the family doctor. In an examination room, the doctor pushed on his stomach. Adam screamed. It was determined his appendix had ruptured, requiring an emergency appendectomy. It was a painful surprise that steered him on a new life path — one that eventually led him to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Risky calculations 
Adam works for federal contractor ARES Corp. calculating risks involving NASA’s $150-billion International Space Station.

He hired on just a month after graduating with a major in math and a minor in computer science in Spring 2018...

His mentor, Associate Professor Dan Rutherford, suggested Adam apply to NASA for a Summer 2017 internship. Rutherford believed in his student — even if Adam wasn’t quite yet convinced. Far less prestigious organizations had already turned him down, “and you tell me to apply for NASA?” Adam remembers thinking.

“Adam was a little discouraged,” Rutherford said. “But I knew he was a good student from all the classes he had taken with me.”

Rutherford’s encouragement paid off one slow but fateful afternoon when Adam googled “NASA internships.” A half hour later, he was hitting the send button on his completed online application.

Source: Ball State University News