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Kyle to Spend Summer with NASA

March 24, 2022
Erica Kyle

Erica Kyle, who grew up in Boise and graduated from Borah High School before attending The College of Idaho, admits she hasn’t traveled much. She’ll have to travel this summer when she fulfills her student research opportunity in California.

The name of the agency may be familiar to most – she’ll be doing research for NASA.

The program is the Student Airborne Research Program, or SARP. Only 28 students nationwide earned invitations into the six-week program, which begins in June. After completing the application process, Kyle received the call that she had been accepted.

“I was on a phone call with my sister at the time so I let it go to voicemail,” Kyle laughed. “When I hung up with my sister and checked the voicemail, the lady said, ‘I’m with NASA, with SARP, could you give us a call back?’”

The junior mathematics-physics major immediately did and that’s when she was told she was in.

The program separates the 28 students into four random groups: atmospheric aerosols, whole-air sampling, ocean remote sensing, and ecology/land remote sensing. The research will center around studying air samples in different settings. Each of the groups will spend some time working in the field to gather information before returning to the University of California-Irvine for specific analysis. When in the field, one group will be on the ground and another will be close to water. The other two groups will specifically gather their data aboard a NASA DC-8 research aircraft.

“It’s a giant airplane and they go up and collect air samples to analyze,” Kyle explained. “All the participants will get to fly on the aircraft at some point.”

Once the data is collected and analyzed, each student will give a presentation at the end of the six-week research period.

She learned of the research opportunity from her academic advisor, Dr. Jim Dull. Dull, along with Dr. Katie Devine, strongly encouraged her to pursue it.

Kyle will be doing more traveling in the fall, too. She’s part of the College’s cooperative, dual-degree engineering program where she completes three years at the College before transferring to either Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, or Columbia University in New York to wrap up her undergraduate studies. She said it is common for mechanical engineers to end up working for the Department of Defense but, while she isn’t against that type of work, she’d be interested in other areas as well. This research project is aimed more at the type of work she’d like to be involved in.

“I want to go into something humanitarian,” she said. “This research position is heavily focused on the environment. I want to go into something that will ultimately do good in the world.”

The College of Idaho has a 131-year-old legacy of excellence. The College is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition, and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.