West Virginia University
11 Apr

My Final Grad Blog

Kerri | April 11th, 2011

Well it has been a long time since I really was able to sit down and write a blog. I spent the majority of my spring semester preparing my dissertation and defending my research. I am happy to report that on March 31, 2011, I successfully defended my thesis and will be graduating in May. It has been an eight-year journey here at WVU, a journey that started back in August 2003 when I first set foot onto this campus.

As a freshman I had no idea what to expect from college, life, and myself. I came here in search of an education and to help shape my dreams. Those first four and a half years were amazing. I had the chance to participate in great internships where I met some of my very best friends while doing some of the most exciting work I had ever done up to that point in my life. I even realized a dream of flying in microgravity, a dream that may not have come true if it were not for the amazing faculty at WVU and the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. As a graduate student it was more of the same. I met wonderful people, participated in great research projects, and challenged myself. I have been so fortunate in the things I have been able to do while at WVU, and I am certainly grateful for the lifelong friends I have made. As far as I am concerned, I am taking the best part of West Virginia University with me as I leave – my wonderful friends and boyfriend.


As many know, I have been very active in volunteering for animal rescues and helping with animal rescue fundraisers. I grew up with dogs, and I have spent the past eight years without a loyal companion to call my own. I wanted to take the route of a responsible pet owner and wait until I could truly devote time to my pet before adopting one. I am happy to announce that last month I adopted a beautiful 2-year old beagle named Lily. She is the light of my life.


The next chapter of my life has been opened thanks to the education I received here at WVU. I will be working in Maryland at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and I hope to do my best to represent WVU through my work. Thank you, WVU, for educating me and helping me develop into the woman I have always wanted to be – a woman that strives to help others, has strong work ethic, and believes in herself. I hope that I will make you proud as I progress in my career.

As I close this chapter of my life and move on to the next, I look back with a smile and fond memories. These past eight years have been the best of my life. Thank you, West Virginia University. My heart and soul will always be here in West Virginia, and country roads will always bring me back to the place I belong.

25 Feb

"NewSpace" versus "OldSpace"

Kerri | February 25th, 2011

While down at Kennedy Space Center covering the final flight of Discovery (STS-133), I was energized to see everyone so enthusiastic about human space flight. Thousands of people who made this launch possible were gathered together hoping for a beautiful and successful launch, and those who have supported the program and wanted to show their children a little piece of history were also there cheering on Discovery. Companies such as ATK, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and United Space Alliance (to name a few) were all on hand for the launch and I was proud and excited to meet some of my personal idols who were engineers working on the shuttle program.

As the shuttle era ends, there is break in the direction we may go as far as human spaceflight is concerned. There is a little uncertainty involved; however, one thing is certain – people still want to explore space. This is a great thing – people want to explore space! There is a push for commercialization of space flight and a large number of companies are getting involved including SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, etc. SpaceX was even awarded a NASA grant to make 12 missions to the ISS to deliver cargo. Falcon 9 and Dragon have been their main project, and with their first trial launch a success, their next scheduled test launch is to dock with the ISS.

With the push for commercialization, ATK, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin have also all been working toward reduced-cost rockets and cargo carriers to get the United States back into space. Just last month, ATK announced it’s plans to build Liberty, the next rocket to carry humans into space. They are proposing a test flight in 2013 and plan to have human rating for their rocket 2 years after that.

Why did I take the trouble to mention these companies and describe their goals without yet getting to the point of my blog? Because I wanted to tell everyone that people want to explore space. We are explorers – we hunger for knowledge. Our space program inspires kids and adults alike, and it is something to strive for while getting your education. Now comes my point. While down at the launch I began hearing the words “NewSpace” and “OldSpace”. I am honestly not even sure if it is one or two words, so I apologize in advance if it is incorrect. I hate these words. According to Wikipedia, “NewSpace” refers to:

Development of launch systems principally with private funding, with only secondary or no involvement with government spaceflight programs and contractors. Private companies that conduct aeronautical efforts, such as Boeing, are generally not considered part of NewSpace due to their heavy reliance on NASA development funding as part of their business model. NewSpace companies need not universally avoid NASA, often participating in projects such as Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, but tend to focus primarily on consumers in the private sector.

Primary drive towards innovation. A NewSpace company might use innovative new technologies that will lead to low cost, robust space systems. Or a company might simply combine currently available, “cheap-off-the-shelf” (COTS) technologies in an innovative manner that provides a new and highly capable system at lower costs.

“NewSpace” companies are those newer companies similar to SpaceX, while “OldSpace” refers to those companies that have been assisting in the space program for years such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and ATK.

I understand that these “NewSpace” companies are often those that wish to make space tourism a reality and make space overall more accessible. I understand the political and fundamental differences between these companies being labeled “NewSpace” and “OldSpace”. The titles are what truly get me here. It is personally offensive to me as a girl who grew up inspired by space and space exploration to see these labels and divisiveness come out in our space program, because they are not just labels, they are now tending to be terms that create a decisive divide in our space industry. There is no “NewSpace” or “OldSpace”, there is only Space. It is truly a travesty that we have become so divided that we have lost sight of the main point – space exploration. Both of these sides want it, and I am telling you so do those kids that are sitting in school today. They want space exploration and they deserve space exploration. They don’t care who gets them there, whether it is “OldSpace” or “NewSpace”. It is my true hope that the political terminology being thrust upon these companies is removed because there is no place for these attitudes in our space program. It may be inevitable and you may call me a dreamer, but this is not the way it should be.

So come on SpaceX! Bring us that beautiful and successful launch of Falcon 9 and the Dragon and get the United States to continue launching humans and cargo to ISS. Come on ATK and Liberty! Bring us another launch vehicle option that can get the United States back to human-rated space flight. I have talked to employees at SpaceX and Masten Space Systems and they are all passionate about what they do. I have met with many employees at ATK, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, and they too all understand the importance of space exploration and show passion and love for what they do. So shouldn’t we all be cheering them on? Because in the end, don’t we want to watch more beautiful launches like I did yesterday? Don’t we want to see the human race exploring the great beyond? I believe that we do, and we do not have time for divisive attitudes and terminology

11 Jan

The Mountaineer Spay and Neuter Assistance Program (M-SNAP) was established in 2008 around a central goal: to eliminate the indiscriminate breeding/euthanasia cycle that kills over one thousand healthy but homeless pets every year in Monongalia County. Their mission is stated as follows: To make spay/neuter the most common solution to reducing the number of homeless, abandoned, and feral animals – thereby eliminating euthanasia as a necessary means of pet population control – in Monongalia County.

To do this, M-SNAP provides vouchers to permanent residents of Monongalia County that are not able to afford the cost of spaying or neutering their animal. People in need of a voucher may call their phone and, providing they have the funds, M-SNAP will have them complete a short questionnaire to demonstrate their need. If awarded a voucher, the resident must select from nine participating veterinary clinics (which are listed on their website) to perform the surgery on their pet. There are restrictions with the vouchers, which are also listed on their website.

If you have been to the Morgantown Mall recently you may have noticed ReTails, a thrift store benefitting M-SNAP. ReTails sells items that were donated to generate revenue to support M-SNAP’s education and voucher programs. If you have any clean items that are in good condition, please contact ReTails to set up a time to drop off your donation.

I personally attended a meeting last week of M-SNAP and was highly impressed with its members. These wonderful people truly care for the well-being of animals. They have a well established and organized program that in 2010 alone benefitted 931 animals in Monongalia County! Please consider volunteering time or items to this great organization that is truly here to help pets and their owners.

STUDENTS: When you move out or graduate and have old furniture, consider donating it to ReTails. It will go to a great cause and it is better than simply throwing it away. Any items such as board games, dishware, jewelry, books, CDs, movies, etc. are also useful items to donate.

AMAZON: If you plan on buying items on Amazon.com, please go through the M-SNAP website. You can go to the M-SNAP website and click on the Amazon link. A percentage of the purchase will benefit M-SNAP.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please visit the M-SNAP website at: http://www.m-snap.org/

6 Dec

True Mountaineer Spirit

Kerri | December 6th, 2010

The members of the West Virginia University Family have pride – Mountaineer Pride. We see it in our athletic teams and our coaches: Coach Bob Huggins showed it when he got down on the floor and hugged an injured Da’Sean Butler in the Final Four game, Rifle Coach Jon Hammond showed it when he brought the WVU Rifle Team back to National Champion Status in 2009 (their 14th National Title), and Coach Bill Stewart showed it when he lead our football team to a win over Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Pat White displayed Mountaineer Spirit in almost every post-game interview; Liz Repella shows it in both her athletic and academic efforts; and Goldwater, Truman, and USA-Today Academic Scholar and former Ms. Mountaineer, Emily Calandrelli embodies it and proudly represents WVU. All of these Mountaineers represent different ways people have shown True Mountaineer Spirit – each of them unique, and each of them important to West Virginia University.

The students, faculty, and staff represent what it means to be a True Mountaineer and show a great love for our University. One person in particular is the WVU President Jim Clements. He and his family truly embody Mountaineer Spirit through their work and support of the University. President Clements is concerned with the education students are receiving and improving it for both undergraduates and graduates. He is also committed to adding 100 new faculty positions across the University, 30 of which were added last year. His goal is to add 30 new faculty over the 2010-2011 academic year to bring more strong research programs to WVU. Provost Michele Wheatly is another wonderful person who has true Mountaineer Spirit. She has brought a unique vision and has set goals for the improvement of WVU and its programs for the upcoming years. She is also very active in advancing women in the math and science fields, and will undoubtedly be an instrumental person in encouraging young girls to pursue math and science careers. Although I have only mentioned a few names here, there are countless others who tirelessly work to continuously improve WVU, whether it is through athletics, academics, research, or global engagement. These individuals embody what it means to have true Mountaineer Spirit, and WVU is lucky to have them.

10 Nov

RSAnimation and Ken Robinson.

Stephanie | November 10th, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson on the problems of our current education systems and the new frontier of public education.

Ken Robinson’s Profile on TED

9 Nov

Many reasons I am happy right now

Lauren | November 9th, 2010

The wall that divided Berlin was opened to allow citizens of the East and West to pass freely between it’s checkpoints on this day 21 years ago. That’s pretty incredible to consider while I look out of my office window; I can see from here the double bricks that silently trace the line where it once stood.

With three weeks left at my internship in Berlin, Germany, I am feeling good about this entire experience. Sunday I enjoyed the first sunny day we’ve had in about a week, and wandered to a few shops where I’ve seen potential gifts to bring my family and friends for the holidays. I’ll be landing (dramatically) on December 23rd, so it’s easy for a poor college student like me to hit two gift-giving targets with one round of presents. I’d elaborate on all of the wonderful things I have come across, but people read this and I would be giving myself away!

I will say, however, that Germany’s Christmarkts are going to be the best way to spend my last bit of time here. The music and craftsmen, artists and performers, and scents of fresh cheese, bread and gluehwein (hot, spiced wine) fill the streets under warm holiday lights and red and white awnings on carved wooden booths. These street markets pop up everywhere, and the city I’ve been navigating and learning these last few months is being transformed beyond recognition into actual Winter Wonderlands. It’s magic!

My German is improving too; today I even ordered trains tickets without slipping in to English once.

Regarding school, yesterday I realized how very lucky I am. I have so many friends in the same boat as me, the “I have a degree but not a job yet” boat. I think this economy might turn itself around in the next few years, but while that’s slowly happening I don’t want to settle for a job for job’s sake. I’ve been waiting tables throughout college and graduate school to make a little extra money, and I know if I did that full time I’d make enough to live off of; but that’s a dilemma I don’t want to have to face. If you say yes to a job just because it’s there, it will certainly hurt your chances of directing your career path the way you had envisioned.

So, why are my friends and I so lucky? I wasn’t being sarcastic: being in graduate school bridges the gap between entering the job market now, while it’s weak and scary, OR waiting out the crisis, gaining further skills, knowledge and credentials, and entering the job market a little more confident in a few years. With GTA and GA opportunities universities are a new frontier. While undergraduate students have chances to win scholarships – and if you’re a West Virginia resident, the PROMISE is available to you – grad students have the chance to gain work experience, gave their tuition paid for, and maybe even earn a stipend while going to school. That’s a kind of magic, too.

WVU, as a larger university, can provide these types of opportunities; and my biggest suggestion to anyone who wants to stay in school and out of debt is to exhaust every avenue possible.

Here are some FAQs about what it means and how it works: http://grad.wvu.edu/academics/catalog_handbook/faq_and_definitions/ga_and_gta_faq

Best of luck!

21 Oct

Working Hard or Hardly Working

Lauren | October 21st, 2010

Since I’ve begun my internship, my day-to-day activities at work have been a learning experience that I am grateful for. While I’m disappointed I don’t have a career at the age of 25, I feel as if I might be done floundering soon and that this will be one of the many life changing events that gets me where I’ll end up (and I plan to end up somewhere good).

My co-workers make life here delightful outside of work too. I’m exactly halfway through my internship and so far:

-I’ve stood in the rain all day on a Saturday filming a marathon,


-I’ve celebrated the 20 year anniversary of German Reunification,


-I toured Wilheim-Kaiser Kirsche and saw breathtaking mosaics,


-gone to a terrific local movie theater for a regular event called “Cine-man” where you watch manly films and they hand you a beer as you walk in the door (on a side note, in Germany they also do this magical thing where they turn the lights on between the previews and the movie in case you’d like to buy some ice cream from a girl with a box around her neck like at a ballpark),

-I’ve been to Potsdam to take photos of “Sans, Souci,”

-I’ve visited my favorite person in the world in London for a weekend (here we are at the Prime Meridian),


-and I’ve even signed up to run a 7.5 km run this Saturday (as if I’m fit enough to do it or something). Reference: http://www.festival-of-lights.de/veranstaltungen/lightrun/

But this last snip-bit gets me to the Festival of Lights.

I intend to take and upload a lot more photos soon so you can fully understand the magic, but this is a portion of October when they light the buildings and trees in Mitte like a fairytale with blues and reds and greens and rope lights and designs (and the occasional alcohol advertisement). It’s so nice considering how little daylight I suddenly have access to. It used to be bright when I woke up at 6:45 – the sun and I were on the same schedule – but now she doesn’t wake up until I walk out the door at 8 and she goes down at 6/6:30, right after my walk home from work. At work I have a big window that I’m grateful for, but it’s not the same as getting to wander the streets in natural light. If I can’t have the daylight I’ll settle for enchanting fake light. Maybe even join a mob and run through it.

Now I’m off to see Museum The Kennedy’s :) Hope it’s bright where you are.

19 Oct

Scuba Certification

Kerri | October 19th, 2010

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a poor swimmer. Don’t get me wrong – I can swim and I feel confident in pools, lakes, and the ocean. I just do not have the proper technique for competitive swimming or treading water for an extended period because it is not something I spent a lot of time on growing up. I learned what I needed to have a chance of surviving if caught in a bad situation, and that was all that I had found necessary at the time. Fast forward to today and I am beginning to realize that I need to be a good swimmer to fulfill some of the physical requirements to be a competitive candidate for the Astronaut Corps. I have been aware that there are some fundamental things one needs to be a viable candidate: good physical condition with the ability to run and swim certain distances in a given time period, having a HAM radio license, being scuba certified, and having your EMT certification all can help your chances. I have been trying to take the “right steps” to align myself with this career path by obtaining advanced engineering degrees, obtaining a HAM radio license, and running and swimming during the week. The one certification I have been avoiding is scuba.

Some of my friends signed up for the scuba course offered at WVU and asked me to sign up with them. There was only one spot left in the class and so without really thinking about it, I signed up. I often blame this new spontaneous side of me on my dear friend, Emily, who has taught me what it is like to live life to the fullest. I will credit her with my signing up for the class.

I was very hesitant to enter the pool and snorkel during the first class session because even that was something I had never done. Once I got the hang of the breathing pattern with the snorkel, I really enjoyed it. I even looked forward to the following week when we put on the scuba gear and swam around the pool. I am happy to report that after 2 open water dives and several class sessions I have become very comfortable with my scuba gear and actually enjoy it! It really goes to show that you may be afraid to do something because you know very little about it, but once you try it there is a possibility that it can be fun. I am thankful I signed up for this class and I am anxiously awaiting my last two certification dives.




4 Oct

It's a Hockey Night in Pittsburgh!

Kerri | October 4th, 2010

I grew up with hockey – my parents loved the sport and we made it a family event to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins play. I remember growing up watching Mario Lemuix, Paul Coffey, Tom Barrasso, Ken Wregget, Kevin Stevens, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, and Darius Kasparaitis play their hearts out every game, every season. I appreciated the sport and the physical and mental toughness of the athletes. I remember the Penguins winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. What a great time to be a Pittsburgh Penguin fan. The Penguins won their third Stanley Cup in 2009 defeating the reigning champion Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 (which was even more exciting because one of our former players – Marian Hossa – jumped ship to join the Detroit Red Wings after they defeated the Pens for the Stanley Cup in 2008). To quote Mike Lange, “LORD STANLEY, LORD STANLEY, BRING ME THE BRANDY!”

Here I am today still loving hockey and trying to get my college friends excited about the season. I look forward to watching players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury, and my favorite – Maxime Talbott. I will be attending a few games this year in Pittsburgh, and I am looking forward to seeing the new Consol Energy Center. Bring it on, Ovechkin. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has just left the building.” Pens fans will know what I am talking about. Let’s Go Pens!

4 Oct

Interning in History

Lauren | October 4th, 2010

When completing the internship application process on USAjobs.gov I had no idea what, exactly, I was signing up for. I was in the market for something that could actually offer me new knowledge, real job skills I could carry away with me, and – I must admit – the mystery and prestige of an internship that required a security clearance certainly piqued my interest. But months later, after the phone interview and security clearance process, I was on a plane over the Atlantic heading toward Berlin, Germany still with absolutely no idea what lay in store.

In the Press Section of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, I am happy to find I have never been bored. My biggest fear was that I would be useless – in an office with an intern for intern’s sake – being tasked jobs that didn’t matter, or worse: being tasked nothing at all. It seems, however, that I arrived right at the perfect time, as Germany was preparing to celebrate twenty years since its re-unification.


(Here I am in front of the Reichstag, their form of Parliament).

I’m learning much more than office skills and State Department protocol; the highlight of my first two weeks would have to be accompanying Ambassador Richard Clark Barkley, the last ambassador to the GDR, as he spoke to an audience of students and staff at a high school in the former East Berlin, and reflected on the fall of the wall. We arrived to the terrific high school fanfare of their band: a pianist, four saxophone players, and a drummer.

During Ambassador Barkley’s talk the students were on the edge of their seats, as was I. It was a remarkable chance for everyone present to hear a new perspective on such a significant day in history. After the assembly ended the students gave the Ambassador a beautiful arrangement of orange and red flowers, and we sat with the principal and English teacher for a while, drinking coffee, and remarking on how little the youth of today may end up really knowing about their country’s past. Watching Germans on television late one November night as they tore down the wall is one of my first memories. It was surreal to be in the same room with Ambassador Barkley as he told his account of that same evening.

When I returned to the Embassy that afternoon and looked out the window at Unter den Linden it really hit home that the coming weekend was the 20th anniversary of German Reunification. Berlin’s famous main street was being transformed for the festivities, the concerts and traditional German food.

Saturday night I joined the crowd for the festival celebrating “Deutsche Einheit” (German unity), surrounded by Germans, Americans, and what seemed like the rest of the world. As I ate my delicious sauerkraut and goat cheese sandwich from one of the hundreds of vendors, and listened to the German equivalent of Donny Osmond on the main stage, I knew then how truly grateful I am for this unique experience. I’d recommend this internship program to anyone I meet who wants to challenge him or herself, and to test his or her stamina for a career in the exciting work environment the State Department has to offer.

I often wander Berlin’s cobblestone sidewalks and never-ending streets with a camera and wide eyes, wondering how I had the guts to say I would live so far away from home for three months, but so happy that I did. Despite the initial nerves, I love that I really get to see up close what the State Department’s mission is, and know there is still so much to learn. This internship is non-stop and fun; each day is unique and asks me rise to different challenges. And to be in Germany right now is especially meaningful. This moment in history, for Germany and for me, certainly fits the description for “life changing.”


(These double bricks mark where the wall once stood. They’re an understated and beautiful reminder of the past.)

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