Hi everybody! My name is Laura Dunlap, and I am a senior physics major at the University of Maryland, College Park. I began interning at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in the summer of 2011. Since I go to school in the area, I was lucky enough to be able to continue my internship part time throughout the school year and full time again this summer.
Credit: Laura Dunlap
I work in the Solar Physics Laboratory (Code 671) under the guidance of Adrian Daw and Douglas Rabin. We are working to develop a solar imaging system using a new technology called a photon sieve. A photon sieve is a type of diffractive optic that uses millions of tiny holes to focus light. I am involved in many aspects of the project including design, testing, and data analysis. I have learned so much about instrumentation and what it takes to build a project from start to finish. The best part of my job is when I get to go outside and actually use the system I helped build. Last summer, another intern and I were even able to take the very first pictures of the Sun with a photon sieve! These successful tests help promote the production and use of more photon sieve imaging systems. It is exciting to have such a major role in developing cutting-edge technology!
Credit: Laura Dunlap. The photon sieve imaging system piggybacked on a telescope during Solar observations.
There are so many great things about interning at Goddard, but one thing I really appreciate is the amount of responsibility I am given as just an undergraduate student. I was surprised the first time my mentor asked me to approve a list of parts to buy or decide what design to use. As an intern, I was not expecting to have so much influence over my project. This responsibility has helped me gain confidence in my work and take ownership of what I do. With this confidence and experience, I feel fully prepared to enter the workforce once I graduate.
The Goddard experience isn’t all about work, either. This internship has allowed me to meet great friends that I will have the rest of my life. It is awesome to have so many people with common interests in one place. I have enjoyed every minute of my experience and I have amazing memories that will last me a lifetime. I would encourage anyone and everyone who has the opportunity to intern at Goddard.