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Santiago Canyon College's Natalie Cannon Completes Prestigious Princeton Internship


​(Orange, CA) - Santiago Canyon College (SCC) aerospace engineering and physics student Natalie Cannon was recently one of two community college students across the country selected to participate in, and complete, a prestigious 10-week Princeton University internship.

The program, sponsored through the United States Department of Energy (DOE), provides research opportunities at various laboratories across the country. Cannon was selected to attend an internship at Princeton’s Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), the university’s facility specializing in nuclear fusion energy. She participated in a project pertaining to the field-reversed configuration (FRC) reactor and its applications as a fusion rocket engine. Called “The Investigation of Permeation Rates of Hydrogen and Helium Through a Palladium Foil for Isotope Separation Applications in the Exhaust Stream of a FRC Reactor,” the project was jointly funded by the DOE and NASA, and provided Cannon the opportunity to complete experimental research designing and building apparatus, conducting permeation experiments and collecting and analyzing data. She was additionally able to present her findings to NASA engineers and scientists.

“As an aerospace engineering and physics major, this project very closely aligned to my interests,” said Cannon. “My long-term goal is to work for NASA as a propulsion systems engineer, and the project I worked on was funded by NASA for a future mission to Pluto. It was directly related to what I am interested in while exposing me to different areas of physics and math.”

Through her research efforts, Cannon was given the honor of meeting and speaking to the United States Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, about her research and experience attending a community college as a science major. She additionally attached her name, as the primary author, and SCC, as a contributing institution, to a peer-reviewed scientific research paper.

To be selected for the DOE’s Community College Internships, Cannon completed an application including the coursework she has already completed, her technical laboratory skills and research projects she had previously worked on, and wrote four essays pertaining to her research interests and goals.

“PPPL’s primary focus is on fusion and plasma physics, something that I had no formal training on,” said Cannon. “What prepared me the most were my chemistry, calculus and electricity and magnetism physics courses. The first week of the internship was a crash course in fusion and plasma physics, so having a strong background in math and physics helped me understand the material.”

Cannon said her internship experience at PPPL was identical to that of students selected to participate from four-year institutions like MIT and CalTech. The intense, hands-on experience has, according to Cannon, “opened up so many doors for future research and internships opportunities” and furthered her interest and desire to pursue graduate work in aerospace engineering.

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About Santiago Canyon College

Santiago Canyon College (SCC) serves more than 17,000 credit and noncredit students each semester. In 2017, SCC was ranked #13 among the 50 Best Community Colleges in the U.S. by College Choice, a leading authority in college and university rankings and resources. The college prepares students for transfer to four-year institutions and careers, and provides courses for personal and professional development, as well as customized training for business and industry. The college is recognized for its adult education program which keeps the working adult - and senior - in mind by offering flexible schedules, and community locations. Serving the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin, and Villa Park, SCC is one of two comprehensive colleges under the auspices of the Rancho Santiago Community College District.

Media Contact:
Nancy Gore
Phone: (714) 900-8466