NASA Internship Propels Logan Ott’s Scientific Career

by Ellen Bombela, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service

When Logan Ott started college he never imagined he’d be selected for an internship at NASA.

“I worked with an interconnected team of engineers, biologists and earth scientists to study the microbes that grow on the surfaces of space-bound vehicles like rovers and rockets,”  said Ott, who is graduating with a microbiology degree on May 5.

After applying for 35 internships, Ott was offered a position as an undergraduate research assistant at NASA in 2017. At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California he worked with the Planetary Protection Agency studying bacteria with a Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry machine.

“We characterized organisms to find ways to prevent us from contaminating other planets, but also to prevent bringing microbes back to Earth as well,” Ott said.

Ott started college at Iowa Central Community College, but realized he wanted to do more. He entered the Admissions Partnership Program with Iowa State University. After earning his associate degree he started at Iowa State majoring in computer science, but soon discovered microbiology.

“I enjoy the interconnectedness of microbiology,” Ott said. “Microbiologists get exposure to pretty much every other department on campus, from food science to kinesiology, we’re finding out more and more that microbes are important to everything in pretty much everything we do.”

Along with classes, Ott served as chair of the Microbiology Club High School workshop and held two jobs. He worked as an undergraduate research assistant with Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine and as a laboratory assistant with the Diagnostic Bacteriology Lab College of Veterinary Medicine.

After graduation, Ott will pursue a doctorate degree in microbiology at Iowa State. He will be working with Melha Mellata, an assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, assisting with research on Avian Pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC).

“I hope to continue researching and become a professor like many of the great mentors I’ve had here at Iowa State,” Ott said.

April 30, 2018