Skip to main content

Mountaineers at NASA

Get an inside look at how WVU Alumni are impacting the future of space exploration.

                “I think to be an alumnus of West Virginia University means that you’re a part of a larger community. It’s a community that has so many diverse talents, whether it’s engineering, whether it’s medicine, whether it’s computer science, it’s a huge community but at the same time you know you always have a home,” said Adam Korona, BS, Aerospace Engineering and BS, Mechanical Engineering.

                  Adam Korona is one of five Mountaineers who let us take a peek into their typical day as an employee at Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. As a Space Suit Systems Engineer, Korona is responsible for writing requirements and defining what the next space suit is going to look like. From monitoring the effects of outer space on the suit in a radiation lab to examining the mobility of a suit at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, Korona finds it exciting that every day on the job is different.

                  Like Korona, Tim Hall, BS, Mechanical Engineering, expressed that his favorite thing about working at the Johnson Space Center is that every day is different, thus presenting new challenges. Hall is the Extra Vehicular Activity Operations Branch Chief, where he and his team train the astronauts how to perform spacewalks, as well as guiding them through their spacewalks while they are in orbit. “If you are really an extroverted engineer and you like to get out and work with people on a team, it’s a great job to be in,” stated Hall.

                   Both Hall and Rob Hayhurst, BS, Aerospace Engineering, are employees of Johnson Space Center who are not only WVU grads but West Virginia natives as well. Hayhurst serves as the Operations Support Officer and Capsule Communicator, where he is responsible for any maintenance on board of the International Space Station (ISS) and verbal communication with the ISS crew. After coming from “humble beginnings,” in his hometown of Fairmont, WV, Hayhurst explained that his experience at WVU prepared him for the next stage of his life. “I’m proud of my WVU past and my West Virginia experience…A lot of people come from humble beginnings to do really good things.”

                  A fourth graduate of Statler College to achieve his childhood dream by working for NASA is Scott Wenger, BS, Aerospace Engineering. As the Supervisor of Flight Operations, specifically in the robotic operations branch, Wenger is in charge of operating the space station’s robotic arm which is used for the resupply and maintenance of the ISS.

However, Judith Hayes, MS, Exercise Physiology, proves that you don’t have to be an engineering graduate to work at Johnson Space Center. After starting her career at NASA in 1984, Hayes now serves as the Division Chief for the Biomedical Research and Environmental Science Research, managing a group of scientists that study the effects of spaceflight on the human body and manage the health of the vehicle.

                   From cap and gown at WVU to making groundbreaking discoveries at Johnson Space Center, these Mountaineers credit WVU and its country roads to leading them where they are today, and are just five among many more Mountaineers who are making a difference at NASA.

“As I look around the Johnson Space Center here at NASA and see the number of WVU grads that are in the positions that they are, it’s a big tribute to the education and the experience that you get at West Virginia University.” – Scott Wenger.

                  Thank you to NASA and Matt Dieterich Photography for providing some of the imagery used in this month’s spotlight. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @WVUAlumniAssoc and on Facebook at @wvualumni for ongoing updates of these individual stories and more.