University of Colorado at Boulder electrical engineering department senior Jennifer Michels was chosen as Colorado's student employee of the year by the Colorado Commission of Higher Education for her work in the space sciences.
Michels is employed by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, headquartered at CU-Boulder, which includes 15 colleges, universities and institutions. Made up primarily of undergraduate students, the consortium is sponsored by NASA to design, build, test and fly space experiments.
Michels won CU-Boulder student employee of the year -- open to both graduate and undergraduate students -- in February 2003, then was recently selected as the Colorado student employee of the year. She now is a candidate for the regional western states student employee of the year in a 15-state region, and that winner will go on to the national finals.
"I was very surprised to receive this award, which is a great honor. I didn't even know I had been nominated," said Michels.
"Engineers and scientists from NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force are often surprised to learn she is an undergraduate, based on the level of her professionalism, initiative, the quality of her work and her communication skills," said Bernadette Garcia. Garcia is the program coordinator for the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.
Michels, who joined the consortium as a freshman, has acted as project manager and systems engineer for the Three-Corner Sat mission, which also involves Arizona State and New Mexico State universities. The goal of the student mission is to fly three small satellites in formation to obtain stereo images of small, quickly changing space phenomena like cloud formations, pollution plumes, and sand or dust storms.
Michels recently was asked to head up the DemoSat program, a consortium satellite mission that involves more than 30 faculty and 500 students from 11 Colorado colleges and universities flying a cadre of satellites on a high-altitude balloon to demonstrate advanced technologies of interest to NASA.
"She is excelling in the role of project manager in this new venture, making an extraordinary contribution to CU and the state of Colorado, all of this as a full-time undergraduate student who also excels in her coursework," said Garcia.
"Jen's attitude is extraordinary," said Elaine Hansen, Director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. "She is self-motivated and an invaluable member of our student body and our organization as a whole."
Michels, a senior from Grand Lake, Colo., who will graduate in December, said she is still weighing her future options. "I'd like to go into the aerospace industry in management, and I'd also like to go to graduate school," she said.
"Jen is the perfect student employee. Whatever Jen is responsible for, you can consider it taken care of and done to perfection," said Chris Koehler, deputy director of the Colorado consortium.
The Colorado Space Grant Consortium is considered by many to be one of the best in the country. They have designed, built and flown six payloads that have been launched on sounding rockets or space shuttles -- more than any other state space grant consortium in the nation.
"I don't know if I ever will meet an undergraduate like Jen again," said Garcia. "When she has traveled to space science meetings in California, Houston and Washington, D.C., everyone assumes she is a doctoral student. She sees the big picture, and makes it all happen."