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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Engineering Graduate Pursues Career in Aerospace at Virginia’s Spaceport

By Noell Saunders

A leader in his own right, Zachary Campbell is upholding a legacy as he is set to graduate from Old Dominion University and add to his family's line of engineers.

Campbell will earn his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace engineering and a minor in engineering management during the University's 129th Commencement Exercises on Saturday. Shortly afterward, he will start an aerospace career at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, which is at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

His mother graduated from ODU in 1986 and his first cousins are engineers, which is where he draws his inspiration for academia. His love for engineering started with his father.

"I've always had an interest in learning," he said. "As a kid, my father and I worked on cars together and I became interested in automobiles. What I loved most was the engineering side of it."

The Lynchburg native has built quite a resumé.

He is interning at the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, also known as Virginia Space, serving as the area college coordinator. He oversees six university ThinSat (thin satellite) projects across the state in addition to providing STEM outreach for Virginia Space's ThinSat program.

Prior to working at Virginia Space, Campbell earned internships funded by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, which is run out of ODU. He chose the University because he fell in love with the program and the diversity.

"ODU has a great aerospace program, and it was perfect for me because of its close proximity to NASA," Campbell said. "I also wanted to live in an urban environment and come to a college that had a large, diverse student body. Having friends from the Philippines and Puerto Rico adds to the personal growth college brings."

Campbell had two internships at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton. He worked in two wind tunnels to test the spin characteristics of planes and conducted finite element-analysis computer modeling for aviation landing gear. He had another internship at Newport News Shipbuilding. There, he worked in nuclear engineering overhaul, refreshing power plants of ships.

He's also worked on a variety of projects at the University. He helped develop a subsurface sampling device for asteroids that he tested with a team at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. He also worked on satellite development with professor and Eminent Scholar Robert Ash.

"One of Professor Ash's students connected me with him," Campbell said "He really took me underneath his wing."

Ash said he was impressed with Campbell's drive to seek out extracurricular academic challenges.

"His personality and enthusiasm for space system engineering work prompted me to urge him to consider going to work for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, and I was elated to contact them on his behalf," Ash said. "That is an extremely rare occurrence."

Virginia Space CEO and Executive Director Dale Nash added: "We are thrilled for Zach Campbell to join the Virginia Space team as our newest graduate of the MARS co-op internship. With over 25 percent of our Spaceport employees sourcing from the intern program, Zach will join a highly skilled workforce recruited from Virginia colleges and universities."

Campbell said he might eventually pursue an advanced degree. But for now, he's excited about what's to come working for Virginia Space.

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