Southeast Missouri State University engineering physics major Michael Rhodes of Bloomsdale, Mo., is part of a research team designing a satellite at the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Arkansas.
During the 10-week National Science Foundation Space Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in Astronomy, Space and Planetary Sciences, Rhodes is researching and conducting experiments in preparation for the launch of a CubeSat, a miniature satellite made for space research equipped with a small, on-board telescope. His team is the first of a three-stage project in which the goal is to launch a satellite into space and use the telescope to measure the rotation rate of nearby stars.
“This REU program contributes to my future success by providing me with valuable expertise that I will be expected to know in my career. As part of a team, I have learned how to work with my partners and how to contribute my own knowledge towards advancing our project. It has familiarized me with the design and engineering process as well as taught me the importance of following a detailed schedule and meeting deadlines. It has also given me the confidence to suggest my own ideas and also humility to listen to and accept the ideas of others,” he said.
Rhodes said he has always been interested in science and mathematics. He said he has focused on engineering physics for his career because the field applies science and mathematics to real-life designs and applications from which people can benefit.
“It excites me knowing that I am in the position to be able to contribute what I’ve learned in math and science towards designing new products for the world, possibly solving some of the world’s current issues, such as the energy crisis,” he said.
The REU program is Rhodes’ second internship. He recently completed a one-year internship working in the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics at Southeast. He also worked as a research assistant to Dr. Santaneel Ghosh in the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics, during which he aided Ghosh in his research in biomedical nanotechnology. The research concluded with a poster presentation at TechConnect WORLD Summit & Innovation Showcase 2012, a national conference in Santa Clara, Calif., which Rhodes attended.
“This research experience provided me with the skill of presenting my research to my superiors and explaining my work in a way that anyone can understand. It also taught me how to perform as part of a team,” he said.
Rhodes also worked on campus as a physics tutor and lab assistant.
“These jobs gave me the opportunity to use my own knowledge and experiences to help struggling students better understand concepts and ideas that are difficult to grasp. They allowed me to work with the students and better improve my skills at teaching others the knowledge I have already learned,” he said.
Rhodes said he is currently contemplating his options after he graduates – pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering or immediately entering the job market.
“Regardless of which path I choose, I know that I would like my job to allow me to use my skills and abilities to help better our society,” he said. “As an engineer, I hope to be able to put forth what I have learned in college towards projects that will provide valuable services to society.”
Rhodes said he credits Southeast faculty with giving him the tools he needs to succeed.
“The faculty is composed of caring individuals who always find time to help students with anything they may need,” he said. “My professors have provided me with all that I have asked. When I have ever needed a letter of recommendation, advising on class schedules or my career, or extra time outside of the classroom for learning, they have also provided me with it.”
When he is not working or doing homework, Rhodes can usually be found at the Student Recreation Center-North playing volleyball, basketball or weightlifting; outside playing ultimate or soccer; in his room playing video games with friends; or hosting movie nights on his floor. The pastime, he said, that consumes most of his time at Southeast is sand volleyball. It started as just a couple of games with a couple of friends and has since turned into a group of about 100 other students who schedule weekly volleyball games at the Student Recreation Center-North or on the outdoor sand volleyball courts.
“We even went so far as to name our group the Daytime Deluxe Diving Dunkaroos. (How we got the name I forgot long ago.) This provides my friends and me an opportunity to meet up and have some fun, which is important,” he said. “It has allowed me to meet many new people and become friends with many people who I never would have known.”
Also in his spare time, Rhodes attends the many events and participates in organizations Southeast offers.
“Through many of these social events I have met many people, some of whom have become good friends. The guest speakers Southeast invites are also very inspirational to me and my career, such as Bill Nye and Kurt Warner,” he said.
Rhodes said that plenty of activities are available off campus as well. He said he especially enjoys attending barbecues with friends at their homes or in Capaha Park, which is within walking distance from campus.
“Southeast is a great campus located in small but eventful college town, which has provided numerous opportunities for fun. Such times include frequent midnight premier movie trips to the Cape Girardeau cinema, dinner with friends at CiCi’s Pizza and numerous birthday parties at Texas Roadhouse,” he said.
Rhodes said he wants future students to enjoy their years at Southeast, because they go by quickly.
“It is important to stay devoted to your classes and homework, but it is just as important to realize that you should take time to enjoy the other aspects of college as well. The friends you meet here will stay with you the remainder of your life, and in times of stress, friends can be more useful than an extra hour of studying or homework,” he said. “Being successful throughout college isn’t about being able to put in the most hours of work, but instead being able to balance your work with time spent relaxing and hanging out with people who may prove to be your best friends in life.”