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Cadence Payne

Payne-E.jpgThe aerospace industry is growing at an exponential rate as numerous firms move into the burgeoning field of space tourism and the next phases of space exploration who can interpret data collected through space missions while having the knowledge and experience to build, test and monitor satellites and other space exploration equipment. MSU’s Department of Physics, Earth Science and Space Systems Engineering offers one of only five space science programs of its kind in the nation, preparing a new generation of professionals to explore the secrets of the cosmos.
Cadence Payne (17), a recent space science graduate from Shelbyville, Kentucky, conducted two projects at MSU as part of the Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. She said she wanted to get involved in research and the space science program offered her the ideal opportunity to do that.
“I found myself longing to get my hands on some sort of project or involved in research while I had time to do so at the Space Science Center,” Payne said.
She worked on research involving stellar spectroscopy, and designed and built a temperature monitoring system for an atomic frequency standard that will be used to upgrade MSU’s 21-meter tracking antenna to NASA’s Deep Space Network. This second project was particularly important to Payne, who wants to pursue a career in satellite and space systems design.
“I wish to continue my career in the realm of satellite design and system composition, so gaining skills in this area will prepare me for my future work,” she said. “The project allowed me to start designing and building a system from a ground-up, top-to-bottom approach. For my field especially, these skills are invaluable.”
Payne’s research mentor was Dr. Thomas Panutti, associate professor of space science and noted astrophysicist. She said Panutti challenged her to come up with her own ideas and taught her research skills that will carry over into her professional life.
 “Seeing as he is a professional in the field I performed my research in, he was an extremely valuable resource to have. He would peg me with ideas and suggestions and allow me to take them and run,” Payne said. “I appreciate the fact that he guided me in my own thoughts and curiosity rather than providing step-by-step instructions on ‘what to do next.’”
Following graduation, Payne will intern at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, this summer before continuing her education at MIT studying space systems. Payne said the reputation of MSU’s program opened the door for her to be awarded the internship.
“My mentor was extremely impressed with our program and said that our well-rounded curriculum made students very valuable in the field and appealing as interns,” Payne said. “She had gone through over 81 applications and gave up hope on the possibility of obtaining a second intern, her first an undergrad from MIT, until my application came through. She was so impressed with my exposure to the various courses that she immediately granted me my phone interview. She also commented that my experience with the maser was a factor that really solidified my spot.”

Payne added the hands-on experience she’s gained here at MSU will be an asset moving forward.
“This experience was excellent in preparing me with the skills necessary for succeeding in my field,” Payne said. “I will perform multiple instances of extensive research throughout my career and this was the perfect way to expose myself to the environment I should expect in the ‘real world.’”