August 2, 2016 10:24:05 AM
If all goes according to plan, the University of North Dakota will launch its first satellite in December, and while more than 100 students and faculty have participated in this landmark project, the man entrusted with putting it all together is Jeremy Straub.
Straub, a Michigan native, has four degrees -- undergraduate degrees in business and information technology from Excelsior College in New York, along with a PhD. he completed in May at the University of North Dakota.
But it may not be putting too fine a point on the matter to say the degree he earned through Mississippi State University may have served him best as he coordinated and planned the work for the project, which began in 2012.
"I have a variety of hats that I wear," Straub said. "Certainly, the orchestration and management of the project is the most important one."
No doubt, he said, the MBA he earned at MSU has aided him in the myriad management responsibilities of UND's satellite program.
Straub, 35, completed MBA in 2010 through MSU's distance education program. He then headed to North Dakota, where he began leading the satellite program as he pursued his PhD.
In his role as director of the OpenOrbiter Small Spacecraft Development Initiative, Straub is responsible for everything from making sure critical satellite components are ordered to liaising with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration regarding integration testing to ensure the craft will fit into the deployer that will take it into orbit.
The craft is due to be handed over to NASA in October for a December launch to the International Space Station and deployment into Earth's orbit early next year.
"It's never dull," Straub said. "There are so many parts to making a space mission a success. Some of the most important parts have nothing to do with the spacecraft or technology development."
A project for the public
As part of the OpenOrbiter program, Straub mentors students ranging from freshmen to grad students who are designing and building the components -- both hardware and software -- of the spacecraft. Students from around the country also come to UND in the summer to learn how to develop software for and perform research related to small spacecraft under Straub's mentorship.
This research experience for undergraduate program will complete its second year at the end of the month.
"In a lot of ways, the development of the satellite is as much about the students participating as the end result," Straub said.
While the satellite weighs only a few pounds and can be held in the palm of your hand, it will be able to take images and perform important research to enable future in-space 3D printing. The designs for the spacecraft will be made publicly available, allowing others to avoid the time and cost of designing their own and facilitating future CubeSat missions at other institutions.
"The real impact may go beyond this project, though," Straub said. "All of those students who worked on the project have some experience that I think will really launch their careers. It's hard to even estimate what they're contributions will be as they continue in their careers. I'm pretty excited about that."
That Straub's educational journey wound through Starkville -- at least virtually -- was a testament to the confidence built in the university's MBA program before he enrolled. With no natural connection to MSU, Straub said his decision to pursue his MBA there was due to it being a well-organized program backed by informed staff.
"When I was considering an MBA program, I really focused my attention on the structure of the programs and the thing that really stood out, that I really liked at Mississippi State, was that when I called, they were able to answer my questions so clearly. A lot of the other programs gave me vague, ambiguous answers. But Mississippi State was very specific in their responses. I knew right then that was the mark of a well-organized and designed program."
Straub's story is a familiar one to those in the MSU business program.
"It is not a surprise to me to hear that one of our distance master's of business administration graduates is leading such a successful venture," said Cindy Smith, director for Distance and Executive Education at MSU. "Our MBA program includes high performing students from all over the United States and the world, representing many types of businesses and industry. We are so proud of Jeremy."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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