Archival News Release
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May 11, 2015

Student’s Path to Success Fueled by NASA Internship

Ryan McPetersThrough his involvement with various on-campus clubs, activities and employment opportunities, College of the Canyons student Ryan McPeters has taken full advantage of the opportunities presented to him.
But in securing an internship with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for the study of semicircular matter disks and stellar formation and extinction, McPeters is rounding out the beginnings of a dynamic career that simply can’t be ignored.

“Ryan is one of those students who won’t let anything or anyone stop him, and he’s very ambitious, dedicated and passionate about the STEM fields,” said Dr. Eric Lara, director of the college’s Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program. “But the best thing about him is the fact that he is so humble and is always willing to help each and every student around him. 

“He will stay at work past his regular hours,” added Lara, “just to make sure those he is helping understand the material.”

Lara works closely with McPeters at the MESA center on campus, where McPeters serves as a tutor. When one of his peers told him about the internship opportunity with JPL, McPeters asked Lara for help in compiling the necessary paperwork.

“I had a friend in MESA who told me about this internship she was applying for, and she encouraged me to do the same. Although, to be honest I think she just needed a carpool,” McPeters said. “I applied to do research in some capacity with astrophysics, and I was placed with my mentor in the observation of stellar formation and extinction.”

McPeters drives to the JPL facilities three times a week to complete the program’s mandatory 10 hours of credit, where he writes code for 15 hours instead. 

A product of home-schooling and charter schools, McPeters began his time at College of the Canyons as a 15-year-old in 2011 after completing his high school requirements.

“I wasn’t crazy about signing a bunch of parental permission slips,” McPeters said about the prospects of leaving for college at a young age. “I also didn’t have the best GPA in high school, so the decision became easier when factoring for that.”

Upon arriving at the college, McPeters hit the ground running, ambitiously diving into the many resources offered. 

After switching his focus from architecture to engineering, McPeters assumed the presidency of the college’s Math Club and assisted in the revival of the Engineering Club, which was waning in numbers.  

Once McPeters got involved with various STEM-based clubs, the workings of the student-organized COC Science Expo first began. 

“I noticed that in general a lot of clubs existed, but didn’t necessarily interact with each other. So through working with Gamma Beta Phi – which opened up my access to faculty members — I branched out to some different departments and started to put together the Science Expo with my friend Stephanie Valencia,” McPeters said. 

Held earlier this month, the 2015 Science Expo operated under the theme “A Race to Save Humanity” and featured students addressing various disaster scenarios that threaten the fate of mankind. 

“Ryan is amazing. He’s efficient but also such a joy to work with,” said Anne Marenco, chair of the college’s sociology department. “He has a great sense of humor and a brilliant mind, and he’ll excel at whatever he chooses to do.”

For the remainder of the semester, McPeters has chosen to spend his time with NASA experts. Beyond that, a list of endless possibilities exists for this dynamic College of the Canyons student.​