After Peter Harrison graduates with his associate of science degree from LFCC this spring he’ll be spending the summer studying rocket science. The Clarke County resident has recently learned he’ll spend 10 weeks interning with NASA at the Langley Research Center.
Harrison, who dual-enrolled at LFCC in 2014 while being homeschooled, was selected for the STEM Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community Colleges program. He will be working with a NASA researcher on solar sail hardware materials.
“A solar sail is something you put on a rocket to use the energy from photons from the sun to propel it into deep space,” Harrison said. “You might use it if you’re trying to get to a planet that’s really far away, or doing mining missions on an asteroid.”
Harrison will receive a $5,000 stipend during the internship.
“I’m super-excited,” he said. “I always kind of thought it would be awesome to work for NASA, but I never thought I would get the opportunity to do that. The main point of the experience is to make connections with the people there and have an opportunity to see what it’s like to do research. That’s what I’m really excited about, to get my feet wet while doing something that’s more real than sitting in a classroom.”
“Not that sitting in a classroom isn’t fun,” Harrison added with a laugh.
Following his internship, Harrison will transfer to Liberty University where he will pursue a degree in science. He’s not yet sure what career path he will take.
“I would like to do something with chemistry, but I’m not sure what that is yet,” he said.
Growing up, Harrison enjoyed watching science-related programs, and said his LFCC professors have really had an impact on him. Ray Rogers, an assistant professor of physics, was actually a NASA research scientist before coming to LFCC.
“All the professors and classes were just a lot of fun,” Harrison said. “[Chemistry Professor] Dr. [Sam] Dillender has really kind of been an inspiration to me in my decision to pursue chemistry. The first time I came into class for chemistry 111, he told us that after his faith and his family, that we were most important to him. He just came in with this big smile and was so excited to teach us.”
The internship definitely changed Harrison’s plans for the summer.
“I was going to work for my dad, building fencing over the summer, but…” he said.
Harrison’s dad, Ben Harrison Jr., owns Harrison Custom Fencing. In addition to his mom, Sharon, he also has two older brothers and one older sister. All of the Harrison children have attended LFCC at some point.
Sister Mary Chris Harrison Boeh is working as a naturalist in Idaho.
“She was really inspired by Professor Rob Simpson and his courses,” Harrison said.
His oldest brother, Ben III, was once LFCC’s science graduate of the year.
“He always kind of lords that over me,” joked Harrison. “I’ve got to catch up.”
Attending LFCC has been the right choice for him.
“I feel it’s been a really good crossover between being homeschooled and going to a four-year university,” Harrison said. “I still get to live at home, but I get an opportunity to work with these great professors.”