Wanting to see what’s out there

Posted by
On February 4, 2024

Joseph Nguyen

Joseph Nguyen, a first-generation college student, says the Kummer Vanguard Scholars program provides structure and opportunities to learn from other students committed to excelling beyond what they’d come to consider their own limits. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T.

For Joseph Nguyen, being pushed – or gently nudged – in directions he may otherwise not have chosen is one of the top benefits of being a Kummer Vanguard Scholar. Shifting to an entrepreneurial mindset is one area he’s ventured into because of such encouragement. Research is another.

“When I heard ‘undergraduate research’ I thought that might be a little too challenging, but the Kummer Vanguard Scholars program showed me that I had options,” says Nguyen, a first-generation college student from Springfield, Missouri, who is majoring in mechanical engineering.

Building on his experience as student director and researcher with the Missouri S&T Satellite Research Team, Nguyen signed up for a research project focused on pulse density modulations of propulsion systems that, by chance, are the same as those used on the satellites he worked with as a member of the research team.

“Being part of this research will give me a sense of what to look for when I join the workforce,” he says. “If I launch a space-related career, I’ll have experience with satellites.”

For now, a space-related career seems more of a when than an if.

This summer, Nguyen completed an internship with University Nanosatellite Program (UNP), which is training future space professionals by funding university students and programs to design, build, launch and operate small satellites. UNP is funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, managed from the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, and located on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. S&T is one of 38 universities in the U.S. that have participated in the program since its founding in 1999.

“I learned that the possibilities of a space-related field are nearly as limitless as space itself,” Nguyen says of the internship. 

He says his interest in satellites coincides with his arrival at S&T in fall 2021.

“There seemed to be a boom in space interest, with a lot of discussions about returning to the moon,” he recalls. “It inspired me to want to see what’s out there beyond Earth. It made me wonder about traveling in space, about going farther, faster.”

Most importantly, he says, he began to wonder, “What if I dive into space as deeply as I can?”

While his interests were clear to him, Nguyen says the Kummer Vanguard Scholars program provided both structure and an opportunity to work with and learn from other students committed to excelling beyond what they’d come to consider their own limits.

“Some students need to be pushed to be more involved, to take advantage of everything S&T has to offer,” he says. “I was one of them, and I am grateful for the push.”

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On February 4, 2024.

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