Shooting Star

Allison
Eatough
Kennedy Krieger High School student with autism secures dream internship with NASA

Abby ReznekThere's just something about the solar system that fascinates me. It started when I was about five years old. I couldn't get enough of books and computer programs about planets, moons, and stars. I was even interested in model rockets because, in life-size form, they created a path to the great Milky Way.

But learning hasn't always been easy for me. I have autism, a developmental disability that can affect normal brain function.

That's why I attended Kennedy Krieger. I think it has the best school in the country for people with autism. The highly structured environment was great. I made friends easily there and even participated in extracurricular activities, such as student government and yearbook.

My teachers and counselors at Kennedy encouraged me to pursue my interest in space and computers outside of the classroom.

In Spring 2005, I worked as an intern at the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The institute oversees the science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope. While there, I helped with data entry, entering addresses, and putting together a PowerPoint presentation on the stars and planets.

This past summer, I had a dream internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. For three weeks, I worked in the electromagnetic division and created a large Power Point presentation for its staff members. I even had a chance to combine my love of space with my interest in medicine by researching the incidence of brain tumors in people living near cell phone towers. I couldn't get enough! Even though I was only supposed to work 20 hours a week, I always wanted to work more.

I graduated from Kennedy Krieger in Spring 2006 with a concentration in information technology. Some days, I really miss school. But I am thankful to Kennedy Krieger for my accomplishments.

I learn something new every day, whether it's through my experiences working at NASA, reading news stories on CNN.com or watching DVD lectures on space. For example, did you know that if an asteroid hit Earth, it could cause our planet to tilt on its axis and eventually cause another Ice Age?

Or did you know that surgeons recently completed the first surgery in a weightless environment? It involved removing a cyst a simple surgery. But don't all major advances begin with simple, small steps? Forty years ago, astronauts first walked on the moon. Now, they're working on space stations and looking toward exploration of Mars.

I believe there's infinite potential for greatness in space just like there's infinite potential for greatness in me.

- Abby Reznek, 20, is hoping that NASA will soon find a permanent job for her at Goddard Space Flight Center. Until then, she is happy to volunteer two days a week at the visitor center. - Story told by Allison Eatough.