Honors Summer Snapshots: Brady

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2018 summer routines via photos. Biological Systems Engineering senior Brady Nahkala started his summer with an epic, open-top-Jeep road trip:

About a year ago I was asked by one of my best friends from high school, Charlie, to reserve this past week on my calendar. He is working on a joint Bachelor’s/Master’s program in Chemical Engineering, with his first 3 years being spent at Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA) and his last 3 years at Washington University (St. Louis, MO). Naturally, he had to get back to the Midwest and I was totally ready to jump in and spend the week moving him to his (superior) home.

We drove. A long time. 2235+ miles. When you search “Burbank, CA to Stillwater, MN” it estimates a route at 1600 miles. You’d think two engineers would have attempted the most efficient route, but I guess we’re still learning.


We made the entire drive in an open top 2006 Jeep Wrangler with a history of overheating when attempting to cross Mexican deserts. Basically, we just needed perfect weather for 6 straight days. Easy.


First I got a tour of the Santa Monica area. We wandered around on the shore and I got to experience Muscle Beach, where the modern active lifestyle was born.


Next, we toured around the Pepperdine campus, which is about 30 minutes north of the LA area. Charlie mostly wanted to prove the last 3 years of his life really did happen. I don’t think I would be able to do homework there.


From LA we drove to Zion National Park where we stayed for two nights slung up in hammocks under the gorgeous Utah stars. This campsite was just east of the park and made everything super accessible. Advice #1: If it were later in the season, we wouldn’t have found a site. Reserve early.


At Zion, we climbed the iconic Angel’s Landing which was probably the highlight of the trip for me personally. This climb was absolutely intense and the views were stunning. We saw a rare American Condor as we climbed!


The climb up to Angel’s Landing was probably the scariest I’ve yet completed. At some points its only ~20 feet wide with 1100 foot drops on either side.


From Zion, we traveled north to Jackson, WY. We spent a day touring the town and hiking in the Grand Teton National Park. This is Jenny Lake, a place that holds a lot of meaning within my family. This area was super peaceful not only for us, but also for the moose that decided to lay in the middle of the trail for a good while.


We spent the last two days barreling down the highway to get home. Our pit-stop was in Custer, SD and we made sure to pull out the history books and have a chat with a few of our old Presidents.


Hammocking is the ultimate light-weight travel style and I loved it.

I reaffirmed my belief that Chacos are the best thing since chocolate.

Driving in an open-top Jeep leaves you at the mercy of the environment (we got rained on twice and snowed on once at a 9600’ mountain pass) and makes your ears ring for dayssss. Despite having no roof, the Jeep “magically” shields you from pretty much anything if you drive fast enough.

You can do all of this with one school-sized backpack (yes I did smell after a few days).

Taking time to experience the world through all your senses (walking barefoot, smelling the pines…) is the best way to cultivate a respect for the world in which we live and it’s how I reconnect with my dreams to help preserve it.

Walk other parts of the world, even if it’s as simple as getting across the country.

Advice #2: Live for the people that helped mold who you are.


Behind the Scenes of a NASA Internship

by Evan Wieczorek

Hi Honors! My name is Evan Wieczorek and for the last four months, I have been working my dream job as an Engineering Intern for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Johnson Space Center. Johnson, located in Houston, Texas, is America’s home for manned spaceflight. People at Johnson are working on manned spaceflight projects and vehicles, including those in conjunction with private industry (Like Boeing, SpaceX, and Lockheed Martin). My position for the semester was titled “Simulation Development and Analysis for Commercial Crew Vehicle Ascent Abort.” That’s a mouthful, right?? Basically, I worked on integrating real spacecraft flight software into a simulation that tested out all of the spacecraft systems. These simulations are used for verification and oversight to make sure that our astronauts are able to make it home safe.

My first day at NASA was a bit on the chilly side. Early January in Texas means temperatures get pretty low. Even though it was only 60 degrees out, I still had to stop and get a picture with the iconic sign outside of the center.


Right across from the main gate is Independence Plaza. The Independence is a full size, high fidelity mockup of the space shuttle, but the Boeing 747 that it sits on is NASA aircraft 905. This is the largest item on display from the space shuttle era.


Across the street from Independence Plaza is Rocket Park, which holds a Saturn V rocket. This rocket is over 350 feet long and is famous as the Apollo era rocket. The Saturn V is the same rocket that was used to take astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon.


Historic Mission Control is also one of the many cool finds at JSC. The very same room where Gene Kranz made his claim to fame saving the astronauts of Apollo 13 is only feet away from my building. I often stop by this room on the way back from lunch to see how the restoration process is coming along.


Modern day mission control is also located at the Johnson Space Center. Here, specialists work with engineers and scientists around the world to help operate, run, and maintain the International Space Station.


While it may not look like it from this angle, this is a photo of the inside of a Space Shuttle bay. The Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL for short) is in the very same building I work in. SAIL was where a lot of the software testing and initial design and testing of the Space Shuttle electronics took place.


The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) is one of the most breathtaking sights at JSC. This is one of the largest pools in the world and is famous for its use as an astronaut training facility. Inside of the pool are full scale mockups of the international space station and the vehicles that visit the station to deliver cargo and people.


Upstairs, the NBL has its own small mission control. With multiple astronauts in the water at a time and a minimum of four assistance divers per astronaut, it takes a whole team to accomplish these training exercises.


When I’m not working or busy looking at cool space stuff, sometimes I take a break on campus to look at the wildlife. JSC is located on over 1,700 acres of land and NASA puts a lot of effort into caring for the wildlife it shares the land with. Aside from the turtles and birds in this picture, the site is home to several herds of deer and even some armadillos.


Through the commercial crew program, Boeing and SpaceX will be working with NASA to take astronauts into Low Earth Orbit. Boeing holds their CST-100 simulator training facility for the astronauts on site, at JSC. Once the vehicle is approved for human flight, possibly later this year or early next year, astronauts will begin training for their first flights from American soil in nearly eight years.


While the simulator is getting set up for the Boeing CST-100, engineers are putting the final touches on the vehicle hardware. In the building 9 mockup facility, medium and high fidelity mockups are available for prototyping, to ensure that the vehicle is human friendly, and training of astronauts.


Towards the end of the semester, all of the NASA interns dress up and go out for dinner to celebrate all of the work that they have accomplished. Fellow NASA intern and Iowa Stater, Dillyn Mumme, and myself took some funny photos at Rocket Park for our NASA “Prom”.


Over the entire semester, I have met more astronauts that I can count. However, retired astronaut and Iowa State Alumni Clayton Anderson gave the interns a lecture on his experiences and opinions on human spaceflight, I knew that I had to grab as many Iowa Staters as possible and take a picture.


One of the coolest parts of being a NASA intern is working with hundreds of other people who want to accomplish the same mission. Currently, these engineers are working on the development of three different manned spacecraft and a long list of other projects. It’s been amazing to work alongside them. (PS. I’m in the back row on the right side of the capsule. The middle one of the three tall interns)


Over the last four months, I have made amazing friends and have had more experiences than I could have ever dreamed of. While I am excited to come back to Iowa State and work on finishing my degree in aerospace engineering, I cannot wait until spring 2019 when I will be returning to Houston, to continue my work as an engineer at the most amazing place on earth. Ad Astra, Evan.

Honors Students Travel the World

Name: Alyssa James

Hometown: Brooklyn, IA

Major(s): Kinesiology, Pre-PT

Location:  Italy

During the entire month of June 2017, I studied abroad in Italy. I went to school and lived in Florence, however, I was still able to travel to other wonderful locations. When I first began school at Iowa State University, I knew that I wanted to study abroad. I went to several Study Abroad Fairs, and even met with one of the many coordinators, to find a program that was right for me. Because my major is Kinesiology and Health, I was looking at the exchange programs for Australia. Australia and New Zealand are two of the most common places kinesiology students go. However, during the fall of my sophomore year, I began to get nervous about being away for an entire semester. I couldn’t help but think about all of the events I would miss: weddings, the Iowa State Fair, my brother’s final year of football, birthdays, and Thanksgiving. I began to brainstorm and research more locations and that is when I found the month in Italy program. I have always wanted to go to Italy mainly because pasta is my all time favorite food, and ice cream is a close second. I also have wanted to see Pompeii, the Colosseum, and the amazing architecture that decorates Italy’s landscape. Studying abroad during the month of June was a perfect time for myself. June is typically a slow month, which means I felt as if I did not miss out on too many things back home.

I went into this experience not knowing a single person who was attending this program. I went to the informational meeting and sat next to a girl who was sitting by herself, hoping to make a friend. After we got to talking, we decided that we would fly out of Chicago together, that way we wouldn’t have to fly alone. Before the meeting began, one of my friends from Orchesis 1 dance company here on campus came to the meeting! It turned out, the girl I flew with and my friend ended up rooming together in Italy, and we traveled together each weekend. I lived with another girl from Iowa State, a girl from North Carolina, and a girl from Boston. I really liked that I was able to meet new people from different states.

Because I studied abroad for the entire month, I was able to travel every weekend. I went to Rome, the Cinque Terre, Milan, Venice, Sorrento, Pompeii, Tuscany, and Pisa. Each place had a different look about them. Some places, such as Milan and Rome, reminded me of cities like New York in the United States. Others, such as the Cinque Terre and Sorrento, were so colorful and full of beautiful trees, flowers, and landscape. My favorite place was Florence; I was able to navigate it easily, as well as see so many beautiful palaces, the Duomo, and the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge on my way to class. I lived right across the street from the largest palace in Florence, Palazzo Pitti, and I was able to go inside and walk through the garden.

I went on the trip to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii with a group called Bus2Alps. It is an organization where you can pay a certain amount of money and they will provide transportation, a place to stay, as well as fun activities for you to do. The leaders are all college aged students and they made the travel so much fun. While we were in Sorrento, 12 of us rented a speed boat to go cliff jumping. I am not sure how high the cliff edge was, but I felt as if I fell down for 30 seconds. I had never been cliff jumping before, but I absolutely loved it.  We also swam in to some gratas, or caves. I am an outdoorsy person, which made this trip one of my favorites. The water was so clear and the nature was absolutely beautiful. It was also nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city. This was the last weekend trip I went on and I went with one of my roommates and my friend from Orchesis 1. We ended up hanging out with 4 other people from Iowa State! I had never met them before studying abroad. I find it so amazing that I would not have met them, had we all not studied abroad in June.

Studying abroad was very important to me because I feel as if we should travel as much as we can while we are young, before we have to have “grown-up” jobs. I find traveling important, as it helps to open your eyes to see how much Americans have compared to others. My apartment in Italy had no air conditioning, and with the temperatures as high as they were, we were hot! We had four fans, one for each of us, that we would sleep next to each night. We also lived on the 4th floor of the building, which had no elevators. I had to carry my suitcase, carry-on, and backpack up four flights of steep stairs. That was a challenge. Florence also had very tiny roads and sidewalks. You had to really pay attention because the cars and vespas would hit you, or you would get yelled at by Italians. However, I did enjoy walking everywhere I went. It was always beautiful outside and my furthest walk was about 20 minutes. Walking around Florence was very unique because the streets are all cobblestone and the buildings are made from different types of stones. It was also interesting to see all of the tourists. Because I was there for a month, I felt as if I was a resident, rather than a tourist.

Being abroad is something I think all students should experience. It helped me to create more friends, be more outgoing, and be able to see things I could have only dreamed of seeing, if it weren’t for Iowa State’s amazing program. I was able to see the Duomo of Milan and Florence, take a gondola ride in Venice, see the Trevi Fountain, Fountain of Four Seasons, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum in Rome, the Pompeii ruins, all 5 villages that made up the Cinque Terre, and so much more! I was also able to eat the tastiest foods I have ever eaten. I had pizza, pasta, calamari (squid), veal (baby cow), calzones, various Italian desserts, and, of course, gelato.

Italy was unique because all of palaces were the original but restored. Inside every palace was a museum of artifacts that belonged to the family that owned the palace. I was enrolled in a class called “Palaces of Florence” and I was able to learn all about the palace, inside and out, as well as visit them. To me, it was an interesting experience because i would not have been able to go inside each palace if it weren’t for the class. Also through the school, I was able to attend a pasta making event where we learned all about how pasta was made, took a boat ride down the Arno River, learned how to paint with fresco, as well as went on two different weekend trips!

Something that i did not know upon arriving was that the first Sunday of the month, you are able to get inside museums, Duomos, or palaces for free. We had the opportunity to go to the Uffizi gallery for free. Inside were many beautiful paintings, including the famous painting of Venus. The museum was huge and we did not have enough time to explore it all. We also had the chance to see the original statue of David, as he is in a museum in Florence. I was impressed by his incredible size and was in awe of how someone could turn a large piece of stone into something so miraculous. I went on a wine tour in Tuscany where I was able to try various types of wine, as well as buy a bottle! In Florence, my friends and I went to a small place near our apartment where they had small fish “kiss” our feet. This is something that can only be done in another country and it felt as if there were tiny vibrating fish touching my feet. Afterwards, our feet were so soft. It was much needed after walking around Florence for an entire month. Finally, one night, at 1am, my roommate and I met up with another friend and looked for a secret bakery. Secret bakeries make the baked goods for stores to sell. If you go to the bakery while they are baking, they will give you something for only one euro! We each got a chocolate croissant.

If I wrote about everything I did during the entire month, I would have written a book! My goal was to do as much as I possibly could, because I did not want to have any regrets when I came back. I wanted more “remember whens” than “what ifs” or “I wish I would’ve done/went…”. If anyone has any questions or would like advice, please feel free to contact me! I would love to share more about my experience. Ciao!

In the Land Down Under

by Nathan Herold

In February, I packed up my bags and flew across the world. My destination was Deakin University located in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Living in Melbourne has been one of the best experiences in my life. It definitely has a different atmosphere than Ames.

Melbourne is a fantastic city! There is so much to do here, and Melbourne is covered in art. Many of the alleys in the city are full of graffiti. There are also so many great places to eat. There is a restaurant right across from the train station that has kangaroo burgers. There are also several dumpling shops. In the month of March, each weekend had some type of festival going on. One weekend I took a trip to a street music festival in a suburb called Brunswick. Another weekend I went to a festival called Moomba which was basically a carnival. One of my favorite activities to do in Melbourne is shopping and the Victorian Market is one of my favorite places. It has souvenirs, clothes, jewelry, produce and so much more. Another one of my favorite places to shop is in Chadstone at the fashion capital. This shopping center is my favorite because it has stores from Target and H&M to stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

Over “Fall” break, I was able to travel to the Gold Coast and to Cairns. I went with some friends that I met here at Deakin. The Gold Coast was a place I only heard of when I got to Australia. It has some of the best beaches. Each day my friends and I went to a different beach. The next stop on our trip was Cairns, which is one of my favorite places in Australia. Besides the horrible humidity, it was beautiful. On the first day we took a rainforest tour. My favorite part of the trip was swimming in different rivers and lakes. I even got to see a platypus on this tour. The next day, we went on the sky rail. The sky rail is like the ski lift at the Iowa State Fair, but in Cairns you are lifted high above the forest going through the mountains. It was a great experience, but once I got off I was glad I didn’t have to ride it again. I was also able to hold a koala that day and take a picture with a kangaroo. The last day was spent snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. Besides getting a little sea sick, I had a great experience seeing the reef. Another great experience I got over our trimester break was staying at a hostel, which was fun and a great way to meet people from all over the world.

Studying in Australia at Deakin University has been an interesting experience. I am only taking four classes this trimester. For each class, we have one lecture per week and then a seminar. There is also little homework. Most classes consist of one final exam and maybe one or two essays throughout the trimester. Definitely a change from Iowa State! Deakin University also has a smaller campus than Iowa State University. I enjoy that I can hop out of bed and get anywhere in 10 minutes or less on campus.

Studying abroad has been a great experience. I would recommend everyone to study abroad. Flying across the world and living in a new country will be an experience I’ll never forget. I have met so many people from around the world during my time at Deakin. I definitely will come back in the future.

Honors Students Travel the World

Name: Kaitlyn Murphy

Hometown: Carson, IA

Major(s): Biology

Location: Rhotia, Tanzania

Shortly before leaving for my childhood-dream destination, a country in East Africa known as Tanzania, I packed with me a piece of advice on my month-long journey and the weeks that have followed it. A stranger told me to “Never let any of this be normal.” Not only was traveling across the country, let alone halfway around the world, a new experience for me, but this trip was an eye-opening opportunity that has left me never looking at life through a “normal” lens again.

I chose Tanzania because, as a child, I dreamed of nothing but adventure. As years passed, I realized my future was in science as a biological researcher. Tanzania was a place I had pictured myself dressed in khakis and looking out through binoculars, but as a student and aspiring scientist, it was a place where biodiversity and culture thrived. This stranger told me to “not let this be normal,” but what did she mean? This question was answered when I laughed with a middle-aged Greek man on our flight over the Atlantic Ocean, it was answered again when I saw my first African sunrise (which was glowing in shades of orange I didn’t know existed), and over and over again from that time on.

We had the opportunity to visit many national parks, in which we saw wildlife and landscapes people sometimes use for backgrounds on their computers. A month traveling through Northern Tanzania, while living and interacting with local villagers, did not feel long enough for the amount of happiness I felt being there. The people of Tanzania include some of the kindest individuals I have ever met. One morning when a few students walked down to a “duka” (Swahili for “shop”), we stopped at a bar selling hot tea. There was no place to sit inside, so we went out and rested on a bench. Two old men were playing checkers on a table and observed us sit close together on this wood slab while drinking our tea. Upon seeing this, they picked up their game board, brought us their table (even though we politely refused multiple times), and proceeded to play checkers on their knees. In that moment, and through that simple act of kindness, I was inspired to try my best to continually show others parallel compassion and selflessness.

The wildlife in Tanzania attracts not only scientists from around the world, but tourism and other people from all corners of the earth. For good reason too- one of my favorite parks we visited was Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti is nothing but grass and sky for miles on miles, and I would’ve never guessed that such nothingness could be so beautiful. Dust would soak into your skin and clothes after only a few minutes in our offroad Land Cruisers. On the second night of our overnight expedition in the Serengeti, a huge bull elephant wandered into our camp. He was close enough to see the reflection of our flashlights in his eyes. As he walked no more than 100 ft from where I was standing, I thought for half a second that I was the same girl still in front of my television screen years before. The elephant passed through once, just making his way through the outstretched savannah, but I will remember those five minutes for the rest of my life.

I saw beauty and resplendency, and through it all, a growing sense of what it meant to be a person living a life she didn’t want defined as “normal.” I can close my eyes now and see the man who sat at the gate to our camp every morning, trying to name the states in the USA, and laughing with him every time he forgot Iowa. I can feel the children holding my hand in the street and feel a cringe inside me when I picture the baby with flies buzzing near her eyes. I can sometimes smell the dust that made the inside of my nose turn black and taste the grit between my teeth.

I sense all of these things within me and realize that while I studied abroad to broaden my own horizons, I left Tanzania with an overwhelming feeling of completeness. I will most definitely keep chasing the setting suns in my future, but with the intention to also acknowledge the new shades of colors in the sky. Even after walking to class for a few months and eating familiar American food at dinner, I still resonate with a determination to “not let any of this be normal.” Someday I hope to close my eyes and see my best friend sitting cross-legged in my living room or hear the Campanile tolling as students cross campus; after traveling around the world, it took me a total of a few seconds to understand that there are many moments, including those in Ames, Iowa, that I would be content living thankfully in forever.

Studying abroad through the Iowa State Study Abroad Center provided this incredible experience and also the resources along the way. It was through this office that I gained a better perspective of myself and of the world. If you ever have the chance to stray away from your own “normality,” take the leap and follow a dream!

Adventures in Australia

by Natalie Lohmann

G’day from Down Under! This semester I have been able to explore the Land of Oz for my study abroad program! I am studying at Deakin University, which is in a suburb of Melbourne, an urban cultural hub of Australia. My life has been full of travel, study, and many new experiences. Here’s a list of my top adventures so far:

  1. Melbourne

As if moving to another country wasn’t culture shock enough, I also get to experience the city life here in Australia! Melbourne is full of things to do, from Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the National Gallery of Victoria, and the famous coffee, there’s always something to do.

  1. Tassie

I got to experience the life of an Australian redneck, aka a “bogan”, in the land of Tasmania! It was full of beautiful nature and calm vibes. It is a must see!

  1. Sydney


Would it even count if I went to Australia without seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House? Not only were these sights jaw-dropping, I also really enjoyed exploring the beaches (Bondi and Manly) and the amazing coastal walks full of cliffs and beautiful views!

  1. Penguins


Not the first animal when you think of Australia, but one of my favorites nonetheless! There is a beach nearby the city that has a pier where you can see the penguins at sunset. There is also an island here where they have a famous penguin parade, where you can witness families of penguins make the trek across the beach! How adorable!

  1. & Other Iconic Animals

The land of marsupials does not disappoint. Not only have I been able to pet a kangaroo and watch a koala take a nap at a wildlife park, I also have seen kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats along the road! These unique creatures may be a common sighting for locals but are always a special treat for an international student like me. 😊

  1. The Ocean

My oh my, the ocean is so amazing! Most of my favorite days here have been at the beach, gaping at the peace of the water and the power of the waves. My ‘Iowa’ definitely shows when I freak out over salt water and palm tree sightings.

  1. Surfing

This has become my new favorite activity while I’m here! I’ve had the opportunity to go surfing 3 times so far, and plan to do it again before I leave. I always feel like I’m becoming more Australian the more I get out in the water.

  1. Experiencing Australian Culture

Speaking of Australian, what does that even mean? Well, it means you are really good at going with the flow and know a lot about “footy” aka the Australian Football League. You probably eat Vegemite on the daily, and have an endless stock of Tim Tams in your cupboard. You shorten all of your words, and have 10 pairs of thongs (NOT the same thing as in America, they are flip flops here). This is all generalized, of course, but often true for the Australians I have gotten to know here!

  1. Making New Global Friendships

One of the best things about studying abroad is the friendships you make with people from across the world! I have met students from across the US, Europe, Asia, and Indonesia! I’ve even met people from countries I didn’t even know existed. So you want to gain a global perspective? Meeting people from around the world will do exactly that.

  1. Ones that await

Thankfully, my time in Australia isn’t over yet! I still have plans to go to Bali, the Great Barrier Reef, and get through finals! Hopefully my adventures spark some interests in studying abroad for you, because you definitely should do it!! Go, get outside your comfort zone, and explore the beauty around the world.

Sweet Home…Cargill

by Jessica Brown

Hey, fans and friends of Honors! My name is Jessica Brown and I’m a junior studying Chemical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from Sioux City, Iowa. During the spring semester and summer, I am working as a production management co-op with Cargill, Inc. in Guntersville, Alabama at their soybean crush plant. Cargill, which provides food, agriculture, financial, and industrial products and services internationally, is the largest privately held corporation in the United States. If you are shopping at a grocery store, you have a 93% chance of buying a product that Cargill had a hand in making.


A soybean crush plant takes soybeans, crushes them into flakes, then uses hexane to extract oil from the flakes. The soybean oil is primarily used in the manufacture of margarines, shortenings, and salad & cooking soils. Hexane is removed from the remaining flakes, which are toasted and turned into meal for animal and poultry feed.


Some of my projects during my term as a co-op include installing agitators in oil tanks, overseeing contractors during an install of a flow agent tank, creating a system for tracking action items from meetings, and running calculations to verify flow rates to machinery.


The plant is situated on the shores of Lake Guntersville, the second largest manmade lake in the world. The sunsets over the lake are absolutely breathtaking, and no two are ever the same.


I’ve been lucky enough to have some visitors over the past couple weeks. When my mom came to visit, we went ziplining in the State Park that overlooks Lake Guntersville.


My ISU friends made their way from Ames during their spring break, and we drove down to Gulf Shores to enjoy some sun, sand, and sailing.

I’ve had a great experience so far and days full of learning, gaining work experience, and exploring. I can’t wait to see what else my adventure at Iowa State has in store for me!