The Millennium Force at Cedar Point might fill the needs of most people who want an upside-down, inside-out experience, but Hilliard's Jill Yuricich said she needs a bigger thrill.

The Millennium Force at Cedar Point might fill the needs of most people who want an upside-down, inside-out experience, but Hilliard's Jill Yuricich said she needs a bigger thrill.

Yuricich, 22, a 2011 Davidson High School graduate and a fifth-year senior at the Ohio State University, completed a five-day course in October at the Project PoSSUM workshop at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. PoSSUM -- an acronym for Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere -- is a study of the upper atmosphere.

Yuricich said she wants to be a scientist-astronaut and aspires to be part of manned missions to Mars, something NASA officials hope to achieve by 2030.

She also is considering a career in the burgeoning private space-travel and exploration industry.

The Project PoSSUM workshop gave her some insight into those careers.

"It was a tremendous experience," Yuricich said.

As part of her training, she rode in a Super Decathlon aerobatic plane, a specialty aircraft designed to create positive and negative G-forces and simulate the rigors of space flight.

"I loved it. It was the best flight of my life," Yuricich said.

A G-force is force acting on a body as a result of acceleration or gravity.

A roller coaster on the scale of the Millennium Force might expose a rider to as much as negative or positive 3 Gs, but only for fractions of a second, Yuricich said. The Super Decathlon aircraft generates negative and positive forces of about 4.5 Gs for longer periods of time, she said.

The aircraft flew inverted and executed numerous loops.

"I felt just a little queasy a couple of times," Yuricich said.

Space travel has been a dream of Yuricich since her childhood.

"I wanted to be an astronaut since I was 5 years old and found it could be a real job," she said. "My parents thought it was a phase and bought me astronomy books and little rockets."

But she only became more excited about the prospects of exploring space.

"It's inspiring and contagious," she said.

Yuricich was in third grade when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven crew members aboard. The shuttle was near the end of its 28th mission, designated STS-107.

Among those on board was Laurel Clark, a mission specialist, who was the aunt of a friend of Yuricich.

"I had collected a lot of memorabilia from STS-107," Yuricich said. "I remember (people) asking me, 'Do you still want to be an astronaut?' It was a challenging question ... but I knew I wanted to carry on what they did so they did not die in vain."

Three years later, Yuricich watched the launch of space shuttle Discovery on July 4, 2006, and last year met Steven Lindsey, commander of that mission.

About the time Yuricich reached middle school, the push had just began for a focus on STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- classes.

"STEM was just starting to be a buzzword and I took all the classes I could," she said.

After graduating from Davidson, Yuricich enrolled at Ohio State and is in its aerospace and engineering program.

She expects to graduate next year and attend graduate school to earn a master's degree and eventually a doctorate.

Stanford University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Texas at Austin, Georgia Tech, Purdue University, the University of Maryland, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ohio State are on her list, she said.

Yuricich was one of six students at the workshop in October, but she was the only one chosen to attend by winning a student-astronaut contest sponsored by the syndicated Xploration Outer Space television show on Fox affiliates across the country.

Joining Yuricich at the academy was Emily Calandrelli, the NASA-trained host of Xploration Outer Space.

A graduate of West Virginia University and MIT who lives in San Francisco, Calandrelli travels throughout the country.

"As host, I translate what the experts say for a high school-aged audience," she said.

Calandrelli said contestants for the expenses-paid workshop experience were chosen based on a variety of factors, including an interview and a social-media component.

"We were looking for a college student passionate about space. ... Jill was our clear winner," Calandrelli said.

Yuricich's Xploration Outer Space episode will not immediately air in Columbus, but it is scheduled to become available Dec. 20 on the Web-streaming service Hulu.