MacKenzie Warner ’21 to participate in NASA research program

MacKenzie Warner ’21 of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has been selected to participate in the prestigious NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) this summer. The program will allow Warner to work with other undergraduate rising seniors and NASA scientists at the National Suborbital Research Center in California.

She is one of only 28 students to be selected from around the country and the only student from Wisconsin. She is majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and Spanish.

Research in the program will focus on atmospheric chemistry, ocean remote sensing, air quality, forest ecology and oceanic biology. Warner also will have the opportunity to fly on the NASA P-3 aircraft for airborne data collection. The program will conclude with individual research presentations.

There currently are no official changes to the program because of COVID-19, but if national travel is still not feasible when the program starts in June, a virtual version of the program will be created so the participants still can have the experience. The program director will work to make sure the students can fly on the NASA P-3 aircraft later in the summer.

The virtual program will include analyzing past SARP program data. Warner says, “I am definitely craving an adventure of my own and really hoping things will turn around regarding the pandemic in the coming weeks.”

Each participant also will receive equipment to collect air samples which will be returned to NASA to measure and analyze the data on changes in air quality from the pandemic. “It’s exciting to be a part of that data collection,” Warner says.

Warner learned about the program as a sophomore in high school while volunteering at the EAA AirVenture convention in Oshkosh. Working at NASA is a longtime goal because “I have always been inspired by science, eager to read and learn everything about space,” she says.

She had to write a series of essays discussing her program interest, past laboratory and research experience, science aspirations and career goals. Warner hopes to pursue a master’s degree in environmental toxicology, genetic counseling or biomedical technology, then work for a medical or technical company.

“I am so overwhelmingly excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Warner says. “I am very thankful for all the incredible support and excitement from my family, friends and the Ripon College community. I am honored to have been selected to attend SARP, it’s truly all I can think about!”

Jillian Heidenreich ’22
Monroe, Wisconsin

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