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College of Engineering and Computing

  • Jackson Swiney stands in the Langley Research Center.

Faculty mentorship leads Swiney to NASA

September 23, 2019

If you ask Jackson Swiney what’s had the largest impact on him during his time at the UofSC College of Engineering and Computing, you may not get the answer you expect. He won’t tell you a specific class, lecture or experience. He won’t even point to the spring internship that he just completed with NASA. Instead, he will tell you about one specific phone call that he received in the middle of his psychology class, and the name of the person on the other end of the line.

Swiney began his academic career as a mechanical engineering major in the CEC. After his first semester, he reached out to professors in hopes of finding research that could lead to potential internships. He was directed to the McNair Aerospace Center where he got a fellowship and began doing computer-aided design for the center’s CNC machine.

Just months into his time at the McNair Center, though, Swiney met Associate Professor Ramy Harik. Immediately, the two became friends and after a semester working on the CNC machine, Harik hired Swiney to become an automated fiber placement programmer on one of his research projects. At the time, Swiney didn’t know the important role Harik would play in shaping his future. All he knew was that the work he was doing in the McNair Center felt special and that Harik had his back.

“He saw something in me that at that point I did not see in myself,” Swiney says now. “He is such a great professor and such a great guy in general.”

Then, last year, Swiney received a call from Harik during one of his psychology classes that still, to this day, he can’t believe actually happened. Harik told him that NASA had an open application and he highly encouraged Swiney to submit his application right away.

“He had talked about wanting to help send me there someday and to me that was just someone talking,” Swiney says. “But, you know, getting that phone call saying they were looking for applicants like me was huge.”

That phone call led to Swiney’s acceptance into NASA internship program, where he spent the entire spring developing software at the prestigious Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The experience solidified his passion for the aerospace field and ensured his future plans to enter the field after he graduates this May.

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