Ole Miss student dreams of Mars landing
Special to The Star
June 10, 2002
UNIVERSITY Douglas Grant of Meridian admits he's a "late bloomer," but the University of Mississippi senior says it has not hindered his quest for the stars.
Grant is the first Mississippian selected for the NASA Academy, a research and study program for students pursuing careers in the space program. He'll spend 10 weeks this summer at the agency's Ames Research Center in California, helping scientists evaluate landing sites for a mission to Mars.
The Mississippi Space Grant Consortium sponsored Grant's application.
Founded in 1993, the NASA Academy is designed to identify and train future leaders for the aerospace industry. Participants work on individual and group research projects, attend seminars and visit NASA facilities and aerospace contractors.
Grant has been assigned to work with NASA scientist Nathalie Cabrol on potential landing sites in the Ma'adim Vallis/Gusev Crater system on Mars. The space agency plans to launch two probes to the planet in 2003, and scientists have identified four areas where underground water may be found.
In addition to his scientific interests, Grant is an avid saltwater fisherman and has been a certified scuba diver since age 13. His latest passion is flying, and he is close to completing requirements for a private pilot's license.
A member of Sigma Chi fraternity, he chaired the group's Charity Bowl committee this spring and played as a running back in the game, which raised more than $85,000 for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.
Grant and the red planet
Grant's fascination with the space program began his freshman year at UM.
The next year, Grant attended a reception at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and met a NASA scientist, who told him about astrobiology.
Because astrobiology studies cross several disciplines, Grant has taken courses in biology and geology. He worked as a teaching assistant in microbiology labs and was a research assistant for biochemistry professor Susan Pedigo, helping with studies of ligand-protein interaction and the kinetics of protein folding. His research is supported in part through the Space Grant program.
Grant said he hopes to attend graduate school, then use his experiences at the NASA Academy to move into astrobiology research.