Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
TACOMA, Wash. – Pacific Lutheran University men's tennis student-athlete Justin DeMattos has leaned on guidance from family members and mentors to help him shoot for the stars, landing an internship this summer with NASA.
DeMattos was raised by his mother in Shelton, Washington. The physics major noted that his mom made every sacrifice she could to make sure he had everything he needed growing up and encouraged him to chase his dreams.
"It's the best feeling in the world knowing that someone is always going to care for you and support you in any way they can and that's what my mom does," DeMattos said. "Through all the disappointments in my dad not showing up to a baseball game or taking me to a show for the weekend, she was always there to make it better and she always will be."
DeMattos' astronomy dreams started his junior year of high school. He was at a friends house when the two started toying with a telescope. When deMattos peered through, he saw Saturn, sparking his interest in outer space.
Now a junior at PLU, DeMattos is doing a NASA internship at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland. He's working on designing visualization tools for a web page that will display data on the Parker Solar Probe mission scheduled to launch next summer. Once launched, the probe will spend seven years in space, traveling through the sun's atmosphere to study solar winds and braving temperatures that will reach up to 2,500 degrees fahrenheit.
DeMattos stumbled across the internship with NASA through a search on the internet. Originally, he wasn't going to apply until his mom encouraged him to do so. Encouragement also came from a pair of professors, Dr. Sean O'Neill and Dr. Katrina Hay who wrote several letters of recommendation, helping him receive funding from the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium. The grant helps with travel and other expenses.
"It has been an amazing experience and I definitely wouldn't have made it here without my mom, my friends from PLU, my friends from Shelton, and my PLU professors who wrote me probably about a dozen letters of recommendation," DeMattos said.
After his experience this summer, DeMattos would like a career with NASA. Whether it's mom, or professors, DeMattos proves that when people encourage each other, anything on the planet is possible.