Indiana State University Newsroom

Sycamore shoots for the stars — and beyond — at NASA conference

August 22, 2017

It was a great day to be Indiana State University sophomore Jarret Posz when the medical laboratory biology major learned he was one of 15 students invited to the NASA's Diverse Life and its Detection on Different Worlds conference in Mesa, Ariz., in May. 

"When I got the email, it was a surreal moment," said Posz of Shelbyville, Ind. "I couldn't believe it. It was very humbling to know that I was accepted to visit NASA."

Posz almost had to turn down the invitation due to financial limitations, though. He called his dad to ask for advice, and his dad gave him a great idea. "I went to my professors in the biology department, told them my financial situation and the opportunity that I had," Posz said. "They were quickly on board with it, there was no hassle at all and the College of Arts and Sciences helped me pay for it. Without them, I wouldn't have had this experience of a lifetime."

Posz attended the conference in April and had an endless number of favorite moments, including meeting astronaut John Grunsfeld, getting one-on-one time with NASA scientists and trying In-N-Out Burger. But the moment that topped them all was a presentation about bioluminescent, the production and emission of light by a living organism.

"Every organism emits a certain light under certain wavelengths, such as X-rays and gamma rays," Posz said. "So they talked about using these lights and comparing them to things on Earth to detect what other planets may have. If certain colors are emitted on Mars, then we can detect things like water, vegetation, living organisms and much more."

While at the conference, he also learned about NASA's new telescope that is getting ready to go into orbit.

"The James Web Telescope is basically the Hubble Space Telescope on steroids," Posz said. "It can see about 13 million lightyears in space. I have no idea what all they can do with this new telescope, but look at all they've done with the Hubble, capturing the nebula and stars. I'm looking forward to seeing all they can do with this one."

Once back on campus, Posz was ready to get back to his studies and make up for lost class time. "I missed a couple of classes while at the conference," Posz said. "When I got back, my professors were more interested to hear about my trip than me asking about makeup work. It was great to tell them about my experience and them enjoying hearing about it."

While cosmology at NASA is his hobby, his true passion is to be a clinical pathologist. He plans to attend a medical school with a program that allows him to achieve his medical degree and Ph.D. at the same time.

"I want to be a doctor," Posz said. "I want to be the one to diagnose everyone in the hospital. I also want to do research on medical science and find new ways to cure certain diseases. My goal is to help people. I think if you're going to be in medicine your main focus should be to help people or else you're in the wrong profession."

Posz knows getting into medical school won't be easy, so he is working hard to maintain a high GPA. But he didn't always have that mindset. As a high school student actively involved in sports, he would make grades that made him eligible for play. It wasn't until sports stopped and he attended Indiana State that he realized how important school was.

"The most important thing you can invest in is your education," Posz said. "ISU has helped me prove people wrong and show what I'm worth. ISU is doing great things."


Photo: -- Jarett Posz beams while meeting astronaut John Grunsfeld, a veteran of five space shuttle flights. (Photo submitted)

Writer and media contact: Antonio Turner, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, or 812-237-3773