Union City, TN
It might be easy to say that it all started with a 15-week internship at Johnson Space Center/NASA in Houston and two subsequent opportunities to work and study there. But Bradley Gregg, of Union City, can trace his interest in engineering and aeronautics to when he was in sixth grade.
“I've always performed well in all of my classes as I work hard on all subjects to achieve good grades; however, math and science were always of particular interest to me,” said Gregg. “In sixth grade my interest in space was piqued by my science teacher, Mrs. Angela Keathley, when we studied our solar system. It was at that time that I knew I wanted to work for NASA.”
When it came time for him to decide which university to attend, he started thinking seriously about a career. “I knew I wanted to work for NASA, so the best route to get there seemed to be mechanical engineering since they are the most employed engineers by NASA,” he said.
Gregg said UT Martin engineering courses are taught by excellent faculty members, many who have worked in the private sector, including NASA and another aerospace company. “Our department is putting an emphasis on improving the labs, and students currently enrolled in these labs and those who will be in the future will surely see benefits from better equipment and improved data acquisition systems,” he said. “New 3-D CAD (computer aided design) software recently was purchased. Knowing how to use a 3-D CAD program effectively can make a designer's job much easier as I experienced while working at NASA. We are getting the opportunity to learn how to use this software in class and implementing what we learned in our senior design projects.”
Speaking of the faculty, he added, “Their guidance and help outside of the classroom helped me get to where I am today.”
The NASA Undergraduate Student Research Project, or USRP, his first experience at Johnson Space Center as a junior, offered mentor-guided internships providing hands-on, real-life, career-related activities that were designed to challenge, inspire, and provide practical application to complement and expand upon his academic education.
An internship with Dr. Bob LeMaster, professor of engineering, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, gave Gregg the competitive edge to earn an additional summer internship at NASA. Gregg now has completed three different internships at NASA in Houston.
“The most important part of any internship, I believe, is getting real-world experience. The value of gaining field knowledge and a practical understanding of the concepts we learn in class cannot be overstated,” Gregg said. “My internships also have helped broaden my horizons as I have lived in Union City and Martin for my entire life. I got to experience living in a large, urban environment while working at my dream job. These internships have also created many new contacts for me including students from all over the country, senior level engineers at NASA, and even Mike Coats, former astronaut and current director at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Networking is very important in any field, and having met these people will surely benefit me in the future.”
Gregg has been offered positions from three different areas within NASA. He will join NASA in the ER5/Software, Robotics and Simulations Division next August after he graduates with a degree in engineering.
Working for a company with one of the most recognizable names in the world is a “dream come true” for Gregg. “When I got the phone call from NASA with my official job offer, my heart was pounding. And, with the job market the way it is all over the country right now, not having to worry about job hunting while trying to finish my degree has lifted an enormous burden off my shoulders,” he said.
“Many people that don't know me don't believe me when they ask what my plans are after graduation, but it is just proof that no matter what your background is or where you were raised, if you really want to do something with your life the opportunity is there. You just have to work for it.”