Oklahoma State University - Tulsa
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OSU-Tulsa News > 2017

Monday, August 07, 2017

OSU-Tulsa graduate student designs, tests lithium batteries for NASA during summer internship

His work at the Helmerich Research Center prepared him for lifelong dream


Eric Drake works in a lab at the Helmerich Research Center at OSU-Tulsa.

After earning a master’s degree in materials science and engineering at OSU-Tulsa, graduate research assistant Eric Drake headed to Johnson Space Center in Houston for a summer internship with NASA.

He designed and tested new high-performing lithium-ion batteries with the aim of preventing fires or explosions – a particular concern when batteries are used on the International Space Station.

“I’ve always dreamed of working at NASA ever since I was little,” Drake said. “I think being involved with the space program makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.”

By most accounts, getting an internship at NASA is difficult. The agency receives hundreds of applications each year from undergraduates and graduate students from across the world who want to land the prestigious opportunity.

Collaboration with faculty from a variety of disciplines, industry partnerships and hands-on research at the Helmerich Research Center lead to OSU-Tulsa graduates who are well-prepared for high-level careers.

NASA has taken notice. Earlier this year, two graduate students began their careers as composite pressure vessel experts at NASA in Houston.

“The materials science and engineering graduate program has a reputation for providing a high-quality interdisciplinary research experience,” he said. “I definitely think this piques the interest of employers like NASA.”

Drake said he applied for a NASA internship four times when he was an undergraduate in electrical engineering with a specialization in electromagnetics.

“The fifth time was a charm,” he said. “But I do think my research at the Helmerich Research Center had so much to do with getting this internship. My adviser, in particular, has pushed me to expand my abilities beyond just the core program to other facets of engineering as well.”

Making connections with world-class professors at OSU-Tulsa is invaluable, Drake said.

“They have worked with employers like NASA before so they can help you get your foot in the door,” he said.

This fall, Drake plans to pursue a doctorate degree in materials science and engineering at OSU-Tulsa. The School of Material Sciences and Engineering is part of the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

“In terms of my career, I think the NASA internship opens a lot of doors to other possibilities that may not have presented themselves,” he said. “OSU-Tulsa played a big role in helping me reach my goals.”

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