Shooting for the stars

Haley Cummins
Haley Cummings, like thousands of College of Engineering and Engineering Technology graduates before her, will accept her diploma with a job offer already in hand.

But not everyone gets hired for their first post-college job at NASA.

Cummings, who received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at NIU in 2016, is completing her master’s degree this semester and has already accepted a job with NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

Cummings wasn’t always a fan of science or math. It wasn’t until her sophomore year of high school that she realized she had a knack for math and physics.

“Mechanical engineering is a field where you can visualize everything and see how it works together,” she said.

Before landing a job at NASA, she interned at the same facility as an undergraduate. Initially, she said, she performed “basic intern tasks” and fluid analysis. After returning to school and taking a course in fluid mechanics, she was able to connect her theoretical knowledge with her work experience.

At NIU, Cummings performed student research on biomaterials with Assistant Professor Sahar Vahabzadeh, adding metal ions to ceramic materials and testing their mechanical and biological response. She worked with the biology department to test and monitor cell reaction to materials. This research could eventually help patients with bone defects like osteoporosis and arthritis.

She also played women’s soccer all four years of her undergraduate career. Proving that not all lessons are learned in the classroom – or even the lab – Cummings said one of her favorite NIU memories came from playing soccer in fall 2016.

“The NIU soccer team didn’t have a great season but we came in as the underdogs and made it to the finals of the MAC championships, where we played very well,” she said. “It was great to see the team rally together and overcome the challenges of the season, since no one thought we would do well.”

As she prepares to depart, Cummings has one piece of advice to students.

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“Get an internship!” she said. “Go to the internship fair and utilize your resources. These times are stressful, crazy and busy but they’re the best time of your life. Enjoy it!”
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