Hi everyone, I figured some might be interested in learning more about the research that goes on at NASA. I'm a senior in high school, and I worked there for about six months before I had to leave unexpectedly. In April, through another project I'm working on, I will be testing an experiment in the vomit comet! AMA about NASA, High School, Research, College Admissions, or anything else you'd care to know!

Proof: (I've removed proof since this AMA is pretty much over, however if mods want me to message them, feel free to PM me)

Edit: I'm still on trying to answer all your questions as fast as I can! Thanks everyone for a little Friday entertainment! :) I'm glad to help demystify NASA a little haha.

Edit2: 2:54 EST! I'm still answering questions! Bring them on ;)

Edit3: Since people keep asking, I worked at the Langley Research Center campus.

Edit4: 3:25 EST. I love all the questions, keep 'em coming!

Edit5: 4:00 EST. My hands are cramping and I'm still answering! Make my hands fall off guys :P

Edit6: 4:414 EST. If I missed anybody and you still want an answer, feel free to PM me! This thread absolutely exploded and I wasn't expecting it!

Edit7: 4:41 EST. I'm still here guys! Keep the questions coming!

Edit8: In case it wasn't clear: none of these responses are on behalf of NASA or the government. I do not work for them anymore.

Edit9: 5:32 EST. I should be online for a little while longer guys! This has been so much fun :)

Edit10: The AMA was a ton of fun guys! It was great getting to talk to everyone! If anyone has any further questions, feel free to PM me.

Comments: 670 • Responses: 111  • Date: 

heemat126 karma

DUDE! I'm a high school teacher who will be flying in microgravity in mid-April with some of my students as part of the HUNCH program.

Can my students and I skype / zoom with you some time after 3pm CST after these holidays? I've got a couple of kids who might love to chat with you. PM me if you're interested!

Zac_William95 karma

Really? That's awesome! I'd love to!

botman69113 karma

Great job in getting so far while 'only' being a senior!

Did you get all your knowledge from school, or did you have an interest in advanced technology while growing up, or how did you get to be that smart? I am really wondering.

Zac_William131 karma

Haha I'm not really as intelligent as people might assume. I honestly think its because I know how to market myself well.

Most, no. I've been interested in just about everything for the longest time; I'm an insomniac, so I spend a lot of nights just reading wikipedia. I did take a Physics course last year, though, which helped me understand the mathematical representations of the concepts I had already read. I've always been into computers and programming, which helped me get my foot in the door. However, it was my research on a more cost-effective hydrogen fuel cell that really got me there.

Jeanlucpuffhard12 karma

You sound pretty intelligent to me.

Zac_William8 karma

Thank you :)

-homeostasis3 karma

Was it beacuase of CO-OP Also?

Zac_William6 karma

I wasn't a part of a co-op until HUNCH. However, I don't work on campus with HUNCH.

BinaryBoob75 karma

watch out for space rape kiddo. space rape is on the incline. No laws or legislation up there. space rape is not a joke kids.

Zac_William56 karma

Haha dang it was always my dream to be raped by a giant green alien:(

JCollierDavis61 karma

What experiment are you testing?

Zac_William114 karma

I was developing a model for plasma actuators, which are basically like mechanical flaps without any moving parts. They work by ionizing the air and creating a non-thermal plasma, which imparts a momentum on the nonionized air surrounding it. However, it can't be used in large aircraft because it doesn't create enough thrust; my team was trying to change that.

In microgravity, we are developing a project for a small local oxygen source for use on the ISS. Its basically just a fancy electrolysis unit.

Edit: since people are asking for an ELI5 version:

I was creating a lumped circuit model (just a circuit diagram like this for a device with a high voltage that breaks apart the air. When the air breaks apart, the electrons go flying around, bouncing into a bunch of things, imparting a momentum (think of someone running into you). However, the nucleus (which is ~99% of the weight) stays still. Plasma actuators look like this.

Electrolysis is relatively simple. It just separates the hydrogen and oxygen in water!

Olenole140 karma

I know some of these words

A_Contemplative_Puma27 karma


Plasma: state of matter existing at extreme levels of molecular excitation (basically high temperatures)

Actuator: a device that moves something. It's truly that simple.

Mechanical Flaps: are movable parts on aircraft that create additional lift at the cost of substantial drag (the end result is a slower moving aircraft. Flaps are used when landing to allow you to stay in the air at lower speeds.) You've probably seen the control surfaces on the tails (elevators) and wings (ailerons) of aircraft, this is one that's similar to those, but closer to the center of gravity, so the plane doesn't turn as much.

Ionized: Okay, I'm more of a mechanical / aerospace guy, but as I understand it, it's the separation of charges in a sample of molecules.

Non-thermal Plasma: You know when I said that plasma was basically just really hot, well this is where I explain that's not exactly true. The same properties can be accomplished without just rising ambient temperatures, this is accomplished by exciting whichever molecules are of interest via ionization.

ISS: International Space Station, the giant satellite with astronauts and stuff.

Electrolysis: again, out of my depth, but many of you guys probably played around with this in high school. You pass current through a material to generate a chemical reaction. The most common demonstration of this is using water to create oxygen and hydrogen bubbles (which is just the bonds breaking down.

Zac_William11 karma

Thank you so much!

Laurdavis8748 karma

Can you maybe do another AMA where you speak English?

Zac_William26 karma

Haha I'm sorry! What would you like me to expand on?

IndoctrinatedCow23 karma

Yes, ELI5 please

Zac_William13 karma

done :)

Kevinx2322 karma

good guy OP

Zac_William3 karma

I never thought I'd be GGG haha.

TheIsletOfLangerhans8 karma

This sounds pretty neat! I've got a couple of questions:

  1. Where does microgravity play a role in your test setup? Which part of this experiment requires a low gravity environment to work properly?
  2. What do you mean that the plasma actuators do not create enough thrust? My understanding of flaps (we're talking the aerodynamic control surface, right?) is that they just affect the amount of lift/drag generated by the wing to change the stall speed.
  3. At what level of detail are you modeling the actuators right now?

Anyway, good luck with your research!

Zac_William6 karma

To be perfectly honest - I don't think it will have any effect. The design of the experiment is kind of just to see "wow, it works" and get patted on the back. Its a whole class project that we do through the HUNCH program. Our original project had to be thrown out, so this was a quick one to make up for lost time.

  1. They impart a momentum on the air, and are used for flow control. I'd assume they work in the same regard as flaps.

  2. I was making a lumped circuit model of them.

ImA10AllTheTime4 karma

Very cool. What are the actuators used for?

Zac_William16 karma

We're hoping to replace flaps in the near future. They have a lot of potential due to having no moving parts, relatively low power use, and greater flow control.

so_I_says_to_mabel-7 karma

Ok so you say all this but it seems to me you are projecting a far greater degree of personal discovery than NASA would ever extend to even a Post-doc.

I'm not saying what you did wasn't cool, but don't try to over impress people by basically acting like you were a research scientist actually designing this study, by doing so you set unrealistic goals in people's mind for what it actually takes to become involved in science (just look at some of the posts praising you).

Zac_William16 karma

I'm not trying to exaggerate my work or understate it, honestly. These two projects are through completely different programs. One was actually on campus and the work was all mine (the plasma actuator), the other is through a high school program called HUNCH.

so_I_says_to_mabel-18 karma

One was actually on campus and the work was all mine (the plasma actuator)

So from scratch you read the back literature, designed and tested a device you made by yourself?

Edit: Downvotes for asking questions in an AMA, pro work reddit.

Zac_William14 karma

I think you misunderstood what type of model I was making. I was developing an accurate lumped circuit model. And yes, I did read all the back literature...all of it, it seemed haha. If you want a better understanding of what I was doing, one of the experts in my work was a man named Orlov. He has a ton of literature published on the subject.

ImA10AllTheTime47 karma

This deserves more attention. Just because someone younger than you is more accomplished doesn't mean you can't still appreciate what they're doing.

Zac_William20 karma

Haha thanks man!

finanzas27 karma

Very cool man. Is anyone there at NASA talking about the SpacEx company led by Elon Musk? They want to populate Mars.

Zac_William34 karma

It's funny you mention Elon Musk, I'll be going to his alma mater next year :D (University of Pennsylvania).

As for SpaceX, not really. My department was actually in Advanced Materials Research, however there are projects like Orion that had private contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. I think part of the reason SpaceX was never brought up in serious conversation was the fact that I'm from the east coast and SpaceX is based in California. I think everyone on campus is excited for the possibilities, however. Aerospace engineers, fortunately and unfortunately, don't really have a lot of options in the private sector currently; they have to work with Big Brother.

doyouevenIift11 karma

What's your intended major at UPenn?

Zac_William8 karma

I was accepted to the Computer and Cognitive Science dual degree program!

yngmny11 karma


Zac_William11 karma

Hey thanks a lot man! I'm so excited, honestly. I couldn't believe I got in, and it still hasn't sunk it completely!

Coolgrnmen5 karma

Y u no MIT?

Zac_William9 karma

I liked MIT, but I didn't really like Boston. I got the feeling MIT was more of a graduate school, also.

kehrol1 karma

You must have gotten in ED, congrats!

Zac_William4 karma

Yep! I flipped out when I opened my decision!

brainattacker26 karma

How did you come across this opportunity to work for NASA?

Zac_William45 karma

My high school requires us to do a senior mentorship project. During my junior year, I designed a more cost-effective and efficient hydrogen fuel cell. I solicited some help from NASA (I literally just called the head of their Nanomaterials branch, since I was working with carbon nanotubes) and she got me in touch with my - former - boss. When the time came to find someone, I just asked him and he accepted!

lforl36522 karma

What high school do you go to that requires this type of stuff? Is it a private one or a very well funded public school?

Zac_William38 karma

Neither actually. I go to a very small rural school; we're one of the poorest areas in the state. However, I go to a regional governors school as well, which is where most of my STEM courses are/were taught. It's just near a NASA campus.

DuoJetOzzy3 karma

How did you come around to the idea of designing a more cost efficient fuel cell? Were you just laying around doing nothing and started thingthinking "What if I..."?

EDIT: I skipped a few letters. Such is life.

Zac_William17 karma

Actually, from a HowStuffWorks article :)

anwaaransari22 karma

/First off , Hats off to you..

and second , How does it feel to "work" at NASA? IT must feel awesome!

Zac_William49 karma

It's insanely awesome to just say, hey I work at NASA. However, the people there are VERY serious about their work. It honestly felt very stiffling at times haha, there was no personality whatsoever. Also the campus was bland as could be.

While there is that romanticism about working there, at the end of the day, it was still a job.

anwaaransari21 karma

Working at NASA has one more advantage: It's a conversation starter. You can say "You know what? I WORK AT NASA" :P

Is everyone else helpful while you work there?

Zac_William25 karma

Haha I try to be humble about it. My family loves to tell people though ;)

And what do you mean?

anwaaransari8 karma

I mean.. do they help you around while working or have a chat with you?

Zac_William20 karma

Apart from my introduction to the facilities, no. That was one of the worst parts about working there. I look a lot older than I am, so most just assumed I was either a graduate student or a new hire haha. I got lost plenty of times, truth be told!

C3ntralS3rvic3s0 karma

Criticism of word usage aside, congrats on your notable achievement and self marketing skills, you and your family should be proud!

However, I am not sure that humble means what you think it does, (cough) "AskMe Anything I work at NASA". Humility would be not telling people unless they asked, rather than 'Hi my name is Zac I worked at NASA'.

Source: Bitter middle-aged underachiever that did not work at NASA

Zac_William3 karma

Haha I don't really announce it unless asked. However, I thought other high school students might be interested or inspired by this. NASA isn't as scary as people think!

Alpha19986 karma

My first job was at a pharmacy...

Zac_William16 karma

Haha mine was at a small time web development company...I learned in the eighth grade how much working makes you hate the things you used to love haha!

marilynness19 karma

(Mech. Engineering student here) Very cool and I hope testing goes well and it gets advanced. Like you mentioned selling yourself is half the job. Many people don't realize that getting in touch with people in high places is as easy as sending them an email sometimes (with a good pitch of course). Anyway, congrats on your progress and hope to see big things from you in the future.

Zac_William11 karma

Haha thanks! At this point I'm just ready to go to college!!

ahmskal6 karma

Where are you applying to?

Zac_William17 karma

I applied early decision to the University of Pennsylvania's computer and cognitive science dual degrees program and was accepted. I was also looking at Tufts, MIT, Columbia, and Carnegie Mellon.

Va1iD17 karma

How did your friends react to you going to NASA?

Zac_William29 karma

Most don't really care past the novelty of it. I do a lot at my school, so they weren't really shocked. The only thing they hate is how busy I stay, which limits the amount of time I can just 'hang out' with them. That sucks.

Cobra80008911 karma

People born in 1996 are working at NASA. FML.

Zac_William12 karma

Honestly, I'm just as scared as you are. It's easy to criticize others when you don't have any say in it. Now that I'm getting older, the responsibility to perform and do well is sometimes unbearable.

Niens9 karma

First of all congrats on that internship, and going to Penn next year.

Have you chosen a major yet? What are your plans/dreams for your future beyond college? Would you like to continue to work in the space exploration field, or is there something else you want to do?

Zac_William4 karma

Thanks so much man! You have no idea how excited I am to be a Quaker!

I have no idea what I'm planning on doing. Right now I'm going to focus on school - I was accepted to their computer and cognitive science dual degree program. So maybe AI?

bunrunner1 karma

Hey man best of luck at Penn! I have a friends there on the xc team and he loves it.

Zac_William4 karma

What's the xc team?

ManBearKoala8 karma

JESUS! Make me feel like shit, what is you IQ? and how did you get the opportunity to work there?

Zac_William14 karma

Haha, I have no idea to be honest. My school requires us to do a research mentorship senior year. The year before I had done some work with a PhD at the facility, and I just asked him if he wanted to work with me. Unfortunately, it didn't work out in the end :(

Xspace_engineerX7 karma

Hey! Shout-out to a fellow NASA intern high schooler. Senior too. Were you at GSFC?

Zac_William9 karma

No, unfortunately! I was based out of Langley.

tweaq7 karma

Did you happen to meet the animation team at Langley?

Zac_William7 karma

Unfortunately, no. That's where I was based, actually; the campus is huge. I worked in the Advanced Materials Research Department.

tweaq2 karma

Ahh, I'm part of the animation team (ACL). We had some interns come through a few times, didn't know if you were one of them. We're working on a video for Game Changing about the woven TPS.

Zac_William3 karma

Oh neat! I wasn't a part of an internship program like LaRSS unfortunately. I didn't get paid :(

valkedin6 karma

Are you asian ?

Zac_William26 karma

I'm a white kid from the country actually hahah! I live in a pop. 300 town :p

Scentrikz4 karma

How much did they pay you?

Zac_William17 karma

None at all. It was completely on my own time. However, I wouldn't advise working there if you want to make the big bucks...academia doesn't pay very well most of the time. It's sad, really. Now R&D for a company, there's where the money is!

mrbroyles4 karma

Hi, I'm a sophomore in high school, and I've become really interested in working with NASA, (JPL in particular) any advice?

Zac_William3 karma

Don't be afraid to just put yourself out there! I cold called the head of the nanomaterials branch because I was curious about carbon nanotubes and it led me to working there. Just explore your passions and you'll make it. I know it sounds cheesy, but its the truth.

emkat3 karma

Why are you no longer working at NASA? What were your hours and duties there?

Zac_William5 karma

I worked six hours a week, and I left due to a two hour commute and a personality conflict.

zedem101 karma

whose personality?

Zac_William2 karma

My research mentor (basically my boss haha). He didn't really have a thorough understanding of the mentorship program and neither of us could communicate very well with each other (he was a foreign national). However, the man was one of the smartest people I've ever met, and I really appreciate the time I had with him. I learned a lot.

goldenfluke3 karma

Flying in microgravity or simply free falling?

Zac_William4 karma

Technically, free falling haha. Its just easier to communicate in layman's terms!

blindELATION3 karma

Where is the vomit comet? JSC or Ellington?

Zac_William4 karma

Johnson Space Center! We'll actually be contracting a flight from Zero G Corporation, which uses a modified 727. You can find more information here: gozerog.com!

Redefreiheit3 karma

What do your parents do?

Zac_William8 karma

My mom never graduated college and works at a newspaper and my dad is a manager at a factory.

YitB3 karma

Any tips for someone the same age for getting into a position like this?

Zac_William3 karma

Just put yourself out there! NASA has a ton of educational opportunities for high school students, you just have to find them. Email a branch head or something, that's what I did.

IrishMerica3 karma

What is NASA's (or your) opinion of the Mar's One mission?

Zac_William6 karma

While I can't speak for NASA, I wouldn't honestly get my hopes up. I remember the AMA with Lansdorp and it didn't seem like he really knew what he was doing. Such a monumental trip with such a relatively small time span is ridiculous. I just don't see it plausibly happening.

gigabyte8982 karma

Why did you have to leave?

Zac_William2 karma

I had a serious personality conflict with my mentor. We couldn't communicate well, and I had a two hour commute that was seriously affecting my other studies.

-anyone-2 karma

How did you get the job?

Zac_William3 karma

I was doing some research my junior year into making a more cost effective and efficient hydrogen fuel cell. I was working with doping platinum onto carbon nanotubes, and I was looking at resources to find out how to do it. So, I pulled up the nanomaterials department at NASA and called. The head put me in touch with the man I worked with this year. At the end of the year, after my research was done, I asked him if he would be willing to take me in.

Linkman3112 karma

Congrats on achieving everything you have up to this point! Do you gave any plans for college? What do you want to do as a career?

Zac_William4 karma

I was accepted early decision to the University of Pennsylvania's computer and cognitive science dual degree program. I'm thinking about working in cybernetics and AI, but honestly I have no idea.

Brutain02 karma

How did you apply for this job? and did you have to compete against others? Why did NASA choose you?

Zac_William1 karma

I didn't. I was doing some research my junior year into making a more cost effective and efficient hydrogen fuel cell. I was working with doping platinum onto carbon nanotubes, and I was looking at resources to find out how to do it. So, I pulled up the nanomaterials department at NASA and called. The head put me in touch with the man I worked with this year. At the end of the year, after my research was done, I asked him if he would be willing to take me in.

gorksnak2 karma


Zac_William6 karma


afrowe1 karma

Do you by any chance happen to go to a private high school in Illinois? I think I might have gone to school with you.

Zac_William2 karma

No I don't haha. I live in Virginia!

sbhurji1 karma

Did you start getting more attention from the ladies after they find out where you work, given you're still in High School?

Zac_William3 karma

Haha not really, I suppose. I've been in a relationship for over a year; so everyone knows I'm off the market ;)

ReflexEight1 karma

What's your favorite food?

Zac_William2 karma

Rice, maybe? It depends on my mood. I can always eat some pizza!

Themuffinbro1 karma


Zac_William2 karma

I live in rural Virginia.

_ravenclaw_1 karma


Zac_William5 karma

Obviously, the best way is to get an aerospace engineering degree. However, a lot of it is connections. Show your passion for academia and look at coops with your university!

jenbeck1 karma

As someone who's already finished the application process, what advice do you have? More specifically, what advice do you have for presenting your main accomplishment of focus? (how did you treat in your essays essentially, if you did)

Applying to Stanford RD and my strongest project has been a full time job this summer at a Tech Startup in SF, so any feedback or tips is much appreciated :)

Zac_William2 karma

I talked about my passion for computers and a personal issue that led me to them. They really want to know the person behind the scores. They could accept a class full of 2400 SAT scores, but they don't. They want a class full of people who they think will benefit their campus.

ohitsmewill1 karma

I start programming and I give up all the time because stuff stops making sense..... anytime I look around me there is so much to learn...

What advise do you have for people like me ?

Zac_William6 karma

I really appreciated the codecademy tutorials. I only used them to learn the python syntax but it worked really well. I'm also going through that as well! I'll pick it up and usually stop...it's a rough cycle! I think a lot of it is just self difficulty. Get involved in the learning community, it helps a lot. Stackoverflow is wicked.

keuhlenhake1 karma

Hey there! I'm a fellow senior in highschool and its my dream to work at NASA some day. Im going into mechanical or aerospace engineering next year, so what would your advice be?

Zac_William2 karma

I'd say do what you love and find other people passionate about the same things. Being surrounded by a likeminded community is invaluable! In college, look for co-op programs, NASA does a lot of outreach programs, you just have to know where to look for them!

noyster1 karma

When did you start realizing how brilliant you are?

Zac_William9 karma

I'm really not as smart as you think haha, I've just taken advantage of the opportunities that have been presented! I'm not even the best student! I've had several Bs and I've got a C in three classes right now haha. Senioritis kills man...

fatcat22able1 karma

Do you need any physical preparations such as working out?

Zac_William2 karma

I think there's a general physical involved, however I'm in good shape. I was considering the US military academy (West Point) before I was accepted to Penn, so I should be fine.

Darthmizener641 karma

Hi! I'm currently a high school student worried about my admissions profile. Do you think that I really need to go to a high-profile undergrad school to be competitive for grad school, or am I fine with just a state school or lower profile private school?

Zac_William2 karma

Honestly, I don't. What you do in college is the most important thing. GPA and GMAT scores help as well. I haven't really looked Grad school yet, since I'm applying to undergrad, however, they say that the most important thing is your graduate school. A kid from my town went to Virginia Tech, yet went to MIT for his masters. Don't stress too much if you don't get into a big name school for your bachelor.

shoretemple1 karma

Any advice for a 24 year old college dropout trying to find opportunities in fast food?

Zac_William1 karma

Moe's man. Delicious.

guesswho1351 karma

i know someone who went up in the vomit comet. he vomited.

Zac_William1 karma

That's what I'm hoping to do!

ciko911 karma

You sound like a smart guy and i kinda like that! I am a hot girl...so any interest? :)

algorithmic41 karma

What exactly did you research with the hydrogen fuel cells and carbon nanotubes?

Zac_William3 karma

I was trying to create a cheaper anode (I never got to test it, because it was really expensive!). Many commercial fuel cells are really expensive simply because the anode is made up of platinum, which has catalytic properties for separating electrons from the hydrogen atom. However, carbon nanotubes are much better at transporting electrons. So my design was to coat very thin layers of platinum on the tubes (a process known as duping) to maintain the catalytic activity, but make it much cheaper to mass produce and increase efficiency. Obviously, I'm a high school student though, and I couldn't afford to buy the platinum :/

hstocktont1 karma

Do I have to be in the top 1% of smart people to get into NASA?

Zac_William2 karma

Heck no...I'm waiting for some of my friends to see this. They'll all tell you I'm an idiot haha!

weiss_und_nerdy3 karma

Not an idiot. But you're no Bill Gates, regardless of what Danny thinks.

Zac_William2 karma

Danny knows his stuff.

Metlover1 karma

I live near Langley and Wallops, and I also have a requirement for high school to perform a research project and a mentorship. What helped you convince NASA to hire you?

Also, congratulations on the experiment- I've had a teacher be in the vomit comet, and she say's it's loads of fun, but don't eat beforehand.

Edit* Should have mentioned that it was Langley Research center, not Langley, VA.

Zac_William2 karma

I'm not near Langley, VA. I live in Hampton Roads. However, I got to know a researcher there who took me in! Thanks for the advice. I think it'd be exciting to puke in zero gravity! Not many people can say THAT!

JonMlee1 karma

What you're doing is great! Quick question: What are your thoughts on the government cutting funding on NASA? Do you think this will make a big affect in the long run?

Zac_William1 karma

Personally? I hope funding is increased. However, I don't know if the private industry will be more efficient in certain pursuits, since they have one goal, instead of the thousands that NASA has. I look at history, and in the 1950s and 60s we had some serious technological achievements, and we were basically throwing money in to these programs. However, how much was wasted? I don't know.

cant_read_adamnthing1 karma

As an EE student who has gotten close to getting an internship with NASA, what can I do to seal the deal?

Zac_William2 karma

Honestly, the only advice I have is to show how passionate you are about your field of study. Wow them. Good luck :)

KirbyAteVash1 karma

What center do you work at? I coop at JSC. Your drivers license looks nothing like Texas or any that I've seen before. Also which branch do you work in? What school has the most coops at your center?

Zac_William1 karma

I'm was at Langley! But I'll be visiting JSC in April! Virginia Tech has a lot of positions here.

KirbyAteVash1 karma

dang, JSC has no VT coops. Tons of Ramblin Wrecks (Georgia Tech) here though! ACC knows whatsup!

Zac_William1 karma

Georgia Tech has a few here too actually! I was looking at the board not too long ago!

cmonpplrly0 karma

How much money did your parents have to throw at NASA for them to let you play there?

Zac_William3 karma

I don't come from an affluent family by any means haha. I was just lucky and took the opportunity that I got.

righteousloaf0 karma

you tell me what "microgravity" feels like, and I will tell you what a vagina feels like.

Zac_William3 karma

Lol. Thankfully I have a girlfriend of over a year who's really supportive of my endeavors.