From Ghana to NASA: Robert Morris University From Ghana to NASA | Robert Morris University

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When Lawton Crentsil immigrated to the United States from Ghana back in 2007, his goal was to obtain an undergraduate degree in engineering. Little did he know that he’d be doing research that could one day help astronauts on deep-space missions.

This May the junior manufacturing and biomedical engineering double major will be taking part in NASA’s National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) Summer Apprenticeship program.

“Nothing could be more appealing than to work hand-in-hand with some of the best engineers and scientists in the world,” says Crentsil. “I could never have asked for more than this. Choosing RMU has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Crentsil will begin in late May at the NSBRI Summer Bioastronautics Institute at the institute’s headquarters in Houston, Texas. After that he’ll spend the remainder of the 11-week internship at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. There, he and William K. Thompson, senior electronics and biomedical engineer, will be doing biomechanical modeling of novel resistance exercise devices that may be used one day in flight units for exploration missions.

“These devices would serve as countermeasures to mitigate loss of bone health and muscular performance due to prolonged microgravity,” says Thompson. “I am looking forward to working with Lawton, who has an expressed interest in biomechanics, and who I believe possesses the academic skills and work habits necessary to make a significant contribution to our efforts.”

Crentsil was studying at a community college in Harrisburg before transferring to RMU in 2012. When he first visited the university, he didn’t know much about its engineering offerings. Then he met Arif Sirinterlikci, Ph.D., head of RMU’s Department of Engineering. “My perception completely changed after I had a one-on-one meeting with him during my tour of campus two years ago,” says Crentsil. “Dr. Arif instilled in me the desire to aim high in whatever I do. His continued encouragement and advice to continue working hard in obtaining good grades was the cornerstone in motivating me to pursue this opportunity.”

In addition to his studies at RMU, Crentsil is currently serving in the Army National Guard with the 856 Stryker Unit in Punxsutawney, Pa., as an SMP (Simultaneous Member Program) cadet and expects to be commissioned as a second lieutenant by the end of June 2015 upon completion of his Leadership Training Course in Kentucky. “Joining the military has also been a fulfilling dream of mine,” he says. “It has instilled in me a sense of readiness and taught me that if you allow yourself to quit on any aspiration, it wasn’t really worth starting in the first place.”

In his free time, Crentsil enjoys playing guitar with friends and jamming to flamenco tunes. He’s also a big soccer fan and is looking forward to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer, although he says that he’ll be somewhat torn when his native Ghana locks horns with the U.S. in the first group matches. “I might be tempted to put on the colorful jersey of the Black Stars come June 16,” he says. “But regardless of the result, my allegiance still lies with the United States.”
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Written by Valentine J. Brkich