Liberty News

Engineering student enjoys out-of-this-world NASA internship

October 10, 2017 : By Will Young/Liberty University News Service

Liberty University students are representing their school on a massive scale — one that even extends beyond the globe.

Electrical engineering junior Madison Melton is the second LU student this year to receive a hands-on internship with NASA. Melton started her work with the Avionics Department at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in August and will continue there through mid-December. (Senior Matthew Russell interned at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston over the summer.)

“The Avionics Department basically deals with the computers on the rocket that connect everything together,” Melton said. “It’s really a mix of the electronics group and mechanical group, so it’s a mixture of all worlds, and I love it.”

Melton said she has mainly worked with programming and coding to make data scripts so that NASA engineers can read the data that comes from the rocket before and during launch. Her duties also involve monitoring the information coming off rockets that lift off, helping to ensure that nothing goes wrong on launch day.

She monitors launches that take place at Kennedy as well as at space centers across the country, allowing her to view rockets blast off into space on a regular basis. Many of the launches are funded by private companies, government projects, and universities for a variety of reasons, including to test how different materials and objects react in outer space.

“It’s just so fascinating,” Melton said. “I feel like what I do here really has a purpose, and it’s an extremely powerful feeling when something that you worked on can fly into outer space.”

While getting plenty of hands-on experience and making connections, Melton said she is also learning more than ever about NASA and how different rockets work. One of her goals, she said, is to become familiar with all the information, processes, and approvals that fall under the Avionics Department.

Scott Pleasants, who has served as the director of engineering technology at the School of Engineering & Computational Sciences, and was one of Melton’s mentors, said Melton has always displayed an excellent work ethic and an intrinsic motivation to learn more in her field.

“(Madison) demonstrates pretty much all of the characteristics of a Liberty student,” Pleasants said. “She’s very Christ-like, always willing to go above and beyond, and she doesn’t just wait for things to happen — she jumps right in when she’s needed, which makes her a great candidate for where she’s at.”

Melton said her internship has helped her realize that she wants to pursue a career at NASA full time. Following graduation in 2020, she hopes to be admitted to NASA’s Pathways Program — a one-year career development program that leads to permanent employment.

Liberty’s School of Engineering & Computational Sciences offers a variety of degree programs — including computer sciences, as well as electrical, mechanical, computer, and industrial systems engineering — that give students relevant hands-on training to open doors to internships and full-time opportunities at companies worldwide. To learn more, visit the school’s webpage or email