WNMU Biology Student Interns at NASA

Western New Mexico University biology student Nicolas Farley, who interned with the NASA Earth Science Division this summer, models prototype components of an exo-suit he is inventing.

© Western New Mexico University

Western New Mexico University biology student Nicolas Farley interned with the NASA Earth Science Division this summer.

“I definitely didn’t realize how prestigious the program was when I applied. There were 28 students from across the U.S., most of which came from Ivy League schools,” he said.

Farley worked in a flying laboratory made from a retrofitted DC-8 aircraft and collected air samples from over southern California. “As part of the Whole Air Sampling Crew, I would open and close vacuumed out stainless-steel cans then take the samples back to lab and plug them into spectrometer to figure out what was in the air. We measured around 100 different chemicals that affect air quality,” he said.

Beyond that, Farley networked with scientists involved in world-renowned projects and discoveries, getting his foot in the door with an organization known for space exploration — one of Farley’s biggest interests. “One the things I want to get into is movement into space and setting up things like bio domes and trying to find other life. Astrobiology is a very competitive field, so being an alum of the Student Airborne Research Program allows me to reach out to experts and ask for letters of recommendations,” he says. “I’m a lot more optimistic about my dream of being an astronaut.”

Farley is studying biology at WNMU “for inspiration.” He chose the subject because he’s a natural at engineering and chemistry, even math. “I’m a bit of a designer and keep sketchbooks full of my own inventions. When you look at design, much of it is biocentric — focused around life — and many inventions need to be compatible with biology,” he said.

While some of Farley’s sketches are mainly for artistic purposes, others are functional. For example, he is inventing an exo-suit. “It’s more of a body augmentation system, basically a raw frame you can put different pieces on,” he says of his work in progress.

Farley 3D-printed his prototypes using 3D design skills he honed at the Future Forge makerspace, which he co-founded, alongside his brother Gabe and fellow WNMU student Stephen Lindsey, with guidance received through the WNMU Studio G business incubator site.

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