Graduate student in aerospace awarded NASA position via Pathways Program

Published: Jan 3, 2022 1:00 PM

By Joe McAdory

Joseph Ivarson, a first-year doctoral student in aerospace engineering, has been awarded a position with NASA through its Pathways Intern Employment Program, where he will work for six years until graduation – then advance into a full-time position with the administration.

Ivarson, who earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Dayton in August, will begin his assignment in June 2022 at NASA’s Langley Research Center’s Structural and Thermal Systems Branch in Hampton, Virginia.

“This is motivating and inspiring,” said Ivarson. “I want to have a hand in furthering human space exploration and NASA is the pathway for me to do that. This is an exciting time to be a part of it. For me to have a future in precisely what I want to do – this far ahead – is such a weight off of my shoulders.”

Ivarson’s fascination with space exploration was birthed as a child during a family trip to the Kennedy Space Center. 

“This was a time when the space shuttle was in its heyday,” he said. “That was new and exciting. Just being able to tour the facilities, walking through the museums, then growing up and building on that passion, is a dream come true.”

Ivarson got a leg up on his career pursuits, and his new assignment at Auburn, as an intern at Langley last year.

“Though it was a virtual internship because of COVID-19, what I learned was immense,” he said. “I had the opportunity to analyze data from the Apollo landings, then try to apply that to my own models. That internship allowed me to get a glimpse into their work and become exposed to things I didn’t know existed.”

In just one semester at Auburn, has become immersed in the university’s Space Technology and Application Research (STAR) lab, under the guidance of Masatoshi Hirabayashi, assistant professor in aerospace engineering, where he and peer students are exposed to the exploration of scientific issues in space, including ongoing and future space exploration missions.

“When I saw what Dr. Hirabayashi was doing in the lab, I reached out to him and was given an opportunity to join the team,” he said. “The STAR lab allows me to be surrounded by some exceptionally talented people like Dr. Hirabayashi and fellow doctoral student Ryota Nakano, who are both involved in the DART mission. There are many students in this program doing exceptional things in their own right. Just being involved is a recipe for success.”

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.844.3447
Joseph Ivarson

Joseph Ivarson

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