Patrick Brown, who has dreamed of going into space his whole life, spent this past summer doing a little more than just stargazing.

The 27-year-old engineering student, who is expected to graduate from URI this December, is currently working towards attaining his “dream job.” On May 19, Brown traveled to Houston, Texas, after being accepted into NASA’s summer interning program at Johnson’s Space Center.

Brown was set to stay in Houston for 10 weeks, where he would work with a team to create a lighter and more sustainable solid-oxide fuel cell system. Due to the costly expenses to launch a single pound of material into space, lighter is better.

“You can’t take everything with you,” says Brown. The team’s goal is develop a rover capable of using Mars’ natural resources that will be launched to the red planet around the year 2020. In order to ensure that the fuel cell will survive the extremes of outer space, Brown and his team must work intensively to create such a strong and dependent system. Although Brown only originally planned to stay until the end of July, his internship was extended for even longer, so he has the opportunity to test the system he has been working on.

“This is something I’ve always had a desire to do,” says Brown. “Now, I have the chance to make it happen.”

Ever since he was a little kid, Brown has thought of himself as a “space nerd.” Brown explained how he had always hoped to accomplish great things someday, but it’s been a long road to get where he is now. After graduating from Westerly High School, he joined the Air Force Academy at 18, where he soon realized that military life wasn’t for him. From there, he attended Colgate University, studying pre-engineering as well as architectural history. His journey continued across the country as he took off a few years to travel to states such as Colorado and South Carolina, working and trying to figure out his goals.

Eventually, 2 years later, Brown decided to “take advantage of his home-state’s resources,” and applied to the University of Rhode Island. Brown desired a degree in chemical engineering, and now, approaching graduation time, he is happy with his decision.

“It doesn’t matter what school you go to,” says Brown. “I’m in a point in my life where I know what I want to do and how to get there.”

After graduating this winter, Brown hopes to continue to work with NASA. Although it is not guaranteed that Brown’s work will ever reach Mars, he is happy enough to have had the opportunity to work in such an environment.

“With this chemistry degree, I could do what I’ve always dreamed of,” Brown says.