Maria Camarca Lands Prestigious NASA Internship

Marymount University’s Maria Camarca will spend the summer analyzing the chemical makeup of comets at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, part of a project that may eventually provide answers to how the building blocks of life could have been introduced to early Earth.

“Maria is a fantastic student and is among the best that Marymount has to offer,” said Dr. Eric Bubar, an assistant professor of biology and physical sciences. “She has a tremendous range of skills throughout a variety of scientific fields and has done projects involving stellar astrophysics, 3D printing of prosthetic arms, and revolutionizing learning approaches for organic chemistry.”

While at Goddard, the senior from Fredericksburg will use a process called spectroscopy, which measures the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation. Camarca became familiar with it during an independent research project as a first-year student at Marymount and credits Bubar for encouraging her.

“Dr. Bubar stressed that if you start doing research as a freshman you’ll gain experience over four years,” Camarca said. “At the time, I had no idea how much that specific project would help me.”

A biology major with a concentration in cellular and molecular biology and a minor in psychology, Camarca also praised Dr. Todd Rimkus, chair of MU’s Department of Biology & Physical Sciences, for being a mentor. Rimkus encouraged her to participate in a three-week trip to Belize last summer to study hawksbill sea turtles, an experience that helped build her confidence enough to apply for the internship.

Bubar said only one in five applicants is chosen for the competitive NASA slots.

“Maria hopes to work for NASA one day, and this internship will be a great experience,” Bubar said. “I truly believe she will be one of NASA’s finest one day and this experience will be a first step for the amazing work that will inevitably be coming from her in the future.”

Marymount University is an independent, coeducational Catholic university offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines.

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Maria Camarca