College student Gregory Villar is studying planetary nebulas as part of his internship at JPL.


Student of the Stars

Growing up as a kid I really liked looking at the stars.

And that really gave me a good interest in astronomy so I wanted to be an astronomer when I was growing up.

Hello, my name is Gregory Villar and I'm a senior at Cal Poly Pomona and I'm majoring in physics and minoring in mathematics.

Text: Villar interned at JPL on a NASA scholarship program called: Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology

He is now a JPL intern on a program called Space Grant.

So right now I'm actually studying objects called planetary nebula and what we're doing is we're trying to classify them in terms of their sizes and shapes.

I guess the most exciting thing about planetary nebula is they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, which is really quite puzzling considering that they all started as a sphere.

And it's just really intriguing to be able to understand why this is so and we don't really have a good comprehension of that right now and I guess that's the motivating factor in doing all this research.

So during my internship I was able to see other projects going on at JPL which was really cool to do as opposed to just working in my office.

We actually visited a lab which works on artificial muscles right now and I think their overall goal is to build an artificial muscle that can beat a human in arm wrestling but that was a really cool lab to visit.

One of my co-interns worked on ATHLETE, which is one of the coolest things ever.

I remember going there one time and seeing all the robotic stuff and it was really cool.

It made me want to go there and work on it for a while.

Every so often, maybe once a month, they took us on field trips, so one would be to the Dryden Center up north and that was really cool too because we got to see all the jets and stuff flying around and all the research they're doing over there.

Now that I'm in the NASA network, I know there's a lot of opportunities there that I would have a great chance of getting into.

After I graduate with my Ph.D. hopefully come back to JPL and do some more astronomy research.

I've always wanted to go into space, so hopefully now that I'm in the NASA network, you know some day in the future when space travel is more accessible, I'd be in that, and I'd just love to go in space one day, that'd be really awesome.

Text: For more internship information, visit

NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
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