Since the early days of America’s space program, there have been Berry College alumni contributing to the cause. Rising Berry senior Parker Roberts continues that tradition this summer, working at NASA.
Roberts is one of 496 college students from around the nation to have earned the 2019-20 Goldwater Scholarship, one of the oldest and most prestigious scholarships in the fields of natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.
“It is a high honor to be awarded the Goldwater Scholarship,” Roberts said. “To receive the Goldwater Scholarship is to be inducted into a community of Americans who have done great things for the world by courageously pushing forward the bounds of what is known and possible.”
Named after Senator Barry Goldwater, the scholarship is awarded to upperclassmen who are looking to pursue research careers and desire an eventual Ph.D.
Rounding out his Berry experience, the track and cross country athlete is also president of the Society of Physics Students and an honor student. Along with the opportunities at Berry, Roberts has also pursued his passion for physics during the summer.
“Last summer, I had the blessing of doing research with the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a national lab that works toward creating a sustained nuclear fusion reactor,” Roberts said. “I was inspired by the passion and hope that the plasma physicists there had as they sought to solve the world’s energy problems by better understanding and controlling plasmas, and I fell in love with this field of research.”
This summer, he will be working at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He will be a part of the research and testing of a powerful new hall thruster, a type of plasma rocket that will power future NASA space missions. Roberts plans to obtain his Ph.D. in plasma physics after graduating from Berry.
“My goal is to contribute to the development of new technologies that will help humanity explore our universe and power our societies in grander ways than ever before,” Roberts said.
Roberts’ work at NASA continues a long tradition of Berry alumni working with the space program. Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and at least 16 Berry College graduates are known to have contributed to the efforts of that mission as scientific and professional employees at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
According to the school, the following Berry grads were early NASA employees: Willis W. Moore Jr. (’62), Jerry J. Wright (’62), Frederick Wagnon (’54), J.B. Stanley (’60), John L. Frazier (’61), Ann Whitaker (’61), Jack A. Jones (’57), Larry D. Mullins (’62), William B. White (’56), and Alvin M. Payne (’53). Each graduated with a B.S. degree in physics. Also included were David D. Webb (’68), Archie D. Coleman (’61), Charles E. Houston (’54), Ronald L. Neece (’54) and Jerry N. Peddycoart (’57).