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News @ ODU

ODU Junior, 17, Awarded Prestigious Internship with NASA Space Academy

He started as a freshman at Old Dominion University at 13 years of age. Now a dean's list student in modeling, simulation and visualization engineering (MSVE) with a 3.90 grade point average, Spencer Lane has been accepted for a prestigious internship this summer with the NASA Space Academy at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The 17-year-old will work on a project titled "Probabilistic Assessment of Space Flight Medical Events," spending 10 weeks at NASA Glenn collaborating with engineers.

The NASA Space Academies are intensive educational programs that emphasize group activities, teamwork, leadership and creativity. The curriculum balances direct contact with science and engineering researchers and an awareness of the myriad issues outside of science faced by aerospace professionals. The program is a rigorous, immersive experience that challenges interns to think and work outside their comfort zones.

That Lane is even a student at ODU, let alone a junior with a stellar GPA, is a fantastic story in its own right. He was diagnosed in 2008 with Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract. The affliction meant that the otherwise healthy, active young man faced a nightmare year of feeding tubes, pills, hospital visits and bed rest. He still takes more than two-dozen pills daily to try to keep his symptoms at bay.

Lane's family decided that he could better handle the rigors of university classes than the long hours of sitting at a desk in high school classrooms. So he went straight from middle school to ODU, and has thrived in the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

From his studies in the Department of Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Engineering, Lane will present a paper April 19 for the Student Capstone Conference at ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center.

During his college career, he helped create an ODU student chapter of the Society for Modeling and Simulation International, and was selected as the first chapter president.

Following his studies at ODU, Lane plans to attend graduate school in MSVE. He continually talks about his disease, making others aware of the impact it can have on a healthy child's life. He has participated in fundraising walks for Chron's, raising thousands of dollars for the Chron's and Colitis Foundation of America. He also has met with local congressmen about funding research about the disease.

ODU President John R. Broderick wrote a letter in support of Lane's internship application. "This is fabulous news. I've known Spencer and his family since he was a 13-year-old freshman at Old Dominion University," Broderick said. "He's a dedicated student who has overcome many challenges."