If you can dream it, you can do it. Shayla Wilhelm saw the frothy sea of the Milky Way as she grew up in a small town in New York. Using a telescope, Wilhelm saw stars and planets shining everywhere across the sky. After realizing how much she loved what she saw in the sky, she ended up seeing a future in aerospace engineering.
Oxygen in Space
“If astronauts on the moon can harness the oxygen under their feet, sustaining a human presence on the moon may not be so difficult after all,” Wilhelm said. Currently, Wilhelm is a junior at the Florida Institute of Technology where she is majoring in Aerospace Engineering. As a former NASA intern at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, she worked on the Molten Regolith Electrolysis (MRE) Project.
The purpose of the MRE Project is to create oxygen on the Moon and to use it in astronaut tanks. By taking the soil on the Moon, Wilhelm would then melt it and run an electric current through it. This would split apart the metal oxides into molten metal and oxygen. After this process, the metal would then sink, allowing the oxygen to be separated, harvested, and eventually purified and distributed.
This process is potentially an important step in setting up long-term research centers on the moon and beyond.
As an intern, Wilhelm had a very hard time to describe an “average” day while at NASA. While she spent every single day differently, she is grateful that her days as an intern was always a unique experience. From staying in the lab and analyzing data, to working in the machine shop and getting her hands dirty, Wilhelm would always be excited and feel lucky enough to take on these new and innovative tasks every single day. Wilhelm also got the opportunity to expand upon her software skills, improve her technical writing, and more.
Have you ever dreamed of working with NASA? Check out our website for more opportunities and information. Also, feel free to read more exciting stories such as Andrew Hoang, another former NASA intern who worked on parachute landings!
Trying out something can lead to a new passion. Rama Diop was encouraged by her chemistry teacher during her junior year of high school to apply for a welding engineering internship at Ohio State University. At the time, Diop wasn’t sure what welding engineering entailed, but she decided to apply anyway. During her internship, Diop did hands-on work including sample preparation, quantitative and qualitative analysis, and developed etching procedures. The internship she was once unfamiliar with led to her majoring in welding engineering at Ohio State University.
Welding Engineering Experiences
Diop went on to be involved with several research projects with applications to nuclear, biomedical, and automotive industries. In one project, she examined the correlation between fracture toughness and impact toughness of several grades of steel. She’s also studied the reduction of solidification cracking in aluminum alloys. Recently, she worked on a joint program with the biomedical engineering department to mimic aspects of the bone remodeling process.
Currently, Diop is an intern in the Metal Processes and Manufacturing Branch at the Marshall Space Flight Center supporting the Laser Welding in Space project. Welding in space allows for repairing, manufacturing, and assembling parts. Diop’s project aims to revisit and further the exploration of technologies in space, as an in-space welding experiment has not been conducted since 1973 on Skylab, the first United States space station.
“It means a lot to have been able to come here and participate in this internship. I have always wanted to come here and participate in this internship, so when the opportunity presented itself, I was ecstatic. I have been able to network with a lot of people and learn more about NASA’s mission,” Diop said.
Diop says an internship with NASA is a great way to see what her role could look like in the welding engineering industry, and she is excited to apply the skills she’s gained in her previous research projects. This session, Diop hopes to explore different applications of welding, experience research on a larger scale, expand her coding ability, and branch into more computational modeling.
“I’m disappointed that my time here is coming to an end, but I have thoroughly enjoyed working here and am happy knowing that the work I have done will be used to help further the aims of this project,” Diop said.
If you’re looking to gain hands-on experience and valuable mentorship, check out our website for opportunities. Or continue reading inspiring stories such as Alex Suh, an intern researching the effects of spaceflight on the human body.
Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor NASA Johnson Space Center
NASA Days, a Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) activity, was created to increase awareness and opportunity among students at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The program is designed to give an overview of NASA’s OSTEM internship program, NASA Pathways Intern Employment Program (IEP), and NASA Fellows activities.
What is NASA Days?
The activity consists of four sessions. The sessions cover steps detailing the Gateway and OSTEM internship application process, an overview of NASA organizations from their subject matter experts, interview skills, resume reviews, interview strategies, best practices, and collaboration efforts among researchers, professors, and scientists.
During Marco Guidino’s NASA internship, he wanted to pass on knowledge and help students get connected, so he decided to help run a joint NASA Days event featuring Kennedy Space Center, Langley Research Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center.
“NASA Days is one of the coolest events I’ve seen that’s open to the general public,” Guidino says. “They give students the opportunity to interact with scientists, discuss resumes, and network.”
One thing Guidino has learned from his attendance at NASA Days events is to put yourself out there and ask specific questions for the role you are interested in.
During the networking mixer portion of the event, NASA managers present an overview of their divisions to attendees. Following this presentation, students separate into small groups where managers rotate answering questions and engaging in conversation with the students.
In the resume review session, managers divide students for interviews dependent on the project they would be best suited for or for a general interview. In this process, several students are usually selected or referred for internship opportunities.
‘As a four-year-old, Monica Saraf repeatedly played the ‘Big Space Shuttle’ DVD that her parents had gifted her. As she watched, her interest in space grew. Monica learned about the heat capacity and assembly of tiles on a shuttle, the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab, and the women who have ventured to space.
‘I lost track of the number of times I watched it. It all fascinated me to the point that I made the decision: I was going to become an astronaut one day,’ Saraf said.
Throughout her elementary years, Saraf daydreamed about becoming an astronaut. She even attended camp at the NASA Kennedy Space Center.
Despite quickly declaring her dream role, as she grew older, Saraf’s interests changed. There was a shift in focus from exploration to cybersecurity. While in middle school, Saraf participated in cybersecurity programs and competitions, fueling her new passion.
In high school, Saraf discovered NASA’s cybersecurity internships, leading back to her previous passion for the agency’s work. With the help of mentors, Saraf applied and was accepted for her first internship.
‘It’s an absolute honor and privilege to be working for an agency that puts not only its employees first, but also its interns. We’re here to help make a difference, and our mentors make sure we know that. Every one of us is given a project that can truly impact the agency, and the support necessary to do so,’ she said.
‘It means a lot that I get to participate in an internship where I feel valued. Being someone who has dreamed of working at NASA for most of her life, my past NASA internship experiences do not disappoint. They have given me even more reason to continue to work hard in my field and learn as much as I can,’ she said.
For some, our inspiration and love for space came from staring at a starry night sky. Despite whether our views were impeded from the light pollution deep in the city, or it was full and brimming with unimpeded clarity, our minds would forever remember the child-like wonderment and emotions we felt. For many of our interns, this experience was much the same. Even for NASA Intern Brooke Alviar, who’s eyesight as a child was terrible, her dreams and aspirations to work at NASA came from admiring the stars.
Hopes and Dreams
At ten years old, her idea of working at NASA meant becoming an astronaut. While it felt out of reach, she held onto the idea. While she was in high school, her best friend’s mother was an engineer at NASA. Just knowing someone at NASA provided a big boost and the idea of just working at NASA became real and attainable. In college, Alviar applied for and received an internship position at Ames Research Center.
“When I finally had the honor of accepting an internship with NASA, I felt as though I myself was reaching the stars.”
Inspiration and Projects
When people think about NASA, they think of space exploration, science experiments in micro-gravity, or rocketry. However, NASA is more than that. For Alviar, when she took her first computer science class during her junior year of college, she understood more and more that innovations in space start on the ground with analytical thinkers and doers.
Currently, she works on a project that enables an optimized business process flow for procurement within NASA teams. She uses python skills and some UX/UI knowledge to develop an automated application which covered end-to-end tracking, approval, and notification of any item that was procured by a team or individual. This allows for improved documentation of an item’s whereabouts, greater transparency in the approval process for an item to be acquired by a team, and a time savings for those responsible for providing status updates for the item. Overall, it reduces the number of human touch points and increases the time savings for a lengthy business process.
How You Can Be a Part of NASA
Do the stars inspire you? Is there a part of you that looks above at the wonders and amazingness of the universe? Be a part of NASA as a NASA Intern! Visit our website for more information on current and future NASA Internship opportunities. Also, be sure to check out our NASA Internship blog. We have plenty of inspirational content posted there, as well as helpful articles, such as the best practices when applying for a NASA Internship.
NASA Internships provide students with valuable skills, knowledge, and wisdom to carry with them into their future careers. Here from three current NASA interns on what they took away from their own internships.
1. Don’t Limit Yourself, Jorge Levario-Delagarza
“I learned through my time at NASA to not constrain myself or limit myself to what I think I can do but instead to embark on challenges I do not know if I can accomplish,” Jorge Levario-Delagarz said. “There is a great opportunity for growth in taking on a challenge that is brand new to you. There is a lot of struggle in taking on a brand new challenge but there is also new skills waiting to be learned, new ways of thinking waiting to be developed and a new experience waiting to be lived.”
As a first-generation college student studying mechanical engineering at the University of Texas Arlington, Delagarza always dreamed of one day working at NASA. Delagarza currently works as a Fractional Thermal Runaway Calorimetry Engineering Intern supporting NASA’s Power and Propulsion Division.
Through his internship, Delagarza is researching ways to enhance the safety of manned space flight by preventing and controlling hazardous effects of Thermal Runaway batteries.
“When humans work together towards a common goal, it doesn’t really matter if the goal is a quarter of a million miles away or if there are only a few years to achieve it. Ambition and togetherness can help get the job done,” Delagarza said.
2. Passion is Powerful, Pia Sen
“NASA has taught me that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to as long as I remain passionate about my work,” Pia Sen said. “I am lucky enough to love my research, and NASA inspires me every day by creating an environment where everyone sees the beauty and exciting parts of science so even the everyday things feel like they contribute towards a bigger mission.”
After watching the movie, The Martian, as a freshman in college, Sen became fascinated with the study of space biology. Sen is now participating in her seventh NASA internship while attending George Washington University as a first year PhD student studying environmental microbiology. Sen currently works with the International Space Station integration group, finding new ways to track research on the space station.
“During my time at NASA, I’ve learned that there are so many moving parts that go into making science happen in space, and I’ve learned to appreciate the necessity of working with people of different backgrounds and expertise to make science happen smoothly in space,” Sen said.
3. Do Your Best Regardless of the Task, Dominic Tanzillo
“Not all of my tasks were scholarly and sometimes I have needed to clean supply closets, move boxes, or help with IT issues. These extremes have reinforced the idea that there is never a job too big or too small and to always fully engage with work,” Dominic Tanzillo said.
Growing up, Tanzillo was surrounded by stories and the excitement of NASA. His grandfather worked as an engineer during the Apollo Program by learning calculus from mail order catalogs.
“Stories from him and my mom watching the Apollo 17 launch have always stayed with me but my heart has always been in medicine.”
Tanzillo is currently a student at Duke University studying math and neuroscience, planning to pursue a career in space medicine. He now interns at Johnson Space Center in the engineering directorate, working to integrate biometric devices to measure the cognitive states of Air Force and NASA pilots.
“I have loved applying classroom lessons to the real world and learning that often, the clean black and white categories we learn in school are often a bit messier and fuzzier,” Tanzillo said.
Interns are playing a key role in the advancement NASA’s mission, exploration, and discovery. Through the Artemis Generation, NASA is seeking to accomplish the goal of sending the first woman and first person of color to the moon. Are you interested in playing your own role by pursuing a NASA internship? Check out our website to learn more about the Artemis Generation and find information on eligibility and application steps.
‘As spaceflight exploration ventures deeper into our solar system, astronauts will need a fresh, sustainable food source to maintain health and wellness. Understanding how plants are affected in spaceflight enables researchers to optimize growing conditions for peak nutritional value and harvest index,’ Josie Pechous said.
While at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Josie worked as a Bioinformatics for Space Crop Production Intern. She compared transcriptomes of previous plant spaceflight missions to identify any genes or signaling pathways that may be useful for future successful space crop production. She began her internship researching spaceflight-induced stressors on the human body. With an interest in plants and nutrition, Josie sought information on how the right diet can boost astronaut health, performance, and wellbeing.
Josie also composed a literature review on microgreens: small, nutrient-dense plants requiring little horticultural demands. She highlighted their nutritional composition, growing conditions, and potential for sustaining life on long-range spaceflight missions to supplement the pre-packaged spaceflight diet.
Mentorship was integral in making Josie’s internship a rewarding experience. Christina M. Johnson assigned a project that worked with Josie’s career goals and encouraged her to direct research to areas that matched her interests.
‘Focusing on a subject that I was passionate about while supporting NASA objectives was such a gratifying experience. Further gratifying has been the continued connection between me and my mentor post-internship. Although over a year has passed . . . my mentor continues to support me,’ Josie said.
After Josie’s internship, her research was incorporated into a scientific article, ‘Large-Scale Crop Production for the Moon and Mars: Current Gaps and Future Perspectives.’ She recently attended the American Society for Gravitation and Space Research annual conference and presented on the advantages of microgreen carotenoid composition for space travel.
Josie completed her degree at Drake University in biochemistry and cell and molecular biology. She now studies at Vermont Law School, pursuing food and agriculture law and policy for a sustainable future.
Interested in becoming a member of the team? Check out our website to learn more about the Artemis Generation and find information on eligibility and application steps. Want more content? Check out ten things you can do now to prepare for a NASA Internship.
Despite the telework nature of this summer’s internship, Kyndall said that even from her home in Dayton, Ohio, she has been able to foster connections with JPL employees and gain valuable experience in her role working on software for an Earth-science instrument that will help NASA understand how different types of air pollution, which can cause serious health problems, affect human health.
And thanks to her mentor, Operations Systems EngineerJanelle Wellons, Kyndallwas able to get the type of hands-on NASA experience that’s been hard to come by since the pandemic.
‘My mentor Janelle suggested that I come visit Los Angeles for a few days this summer, and I was finally able to visit and explore the city for the first time,’ Kyndall said. ‘I am also super grateful for her setting up a tour at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center where we were able to view, tour, and learn lots of interesting facts about NASA’s historical aircraft.’
Janelle splits her time operating instruments aboard several Earth-observing missions. She has been involved in previous years’ roundtable discussions with historically black colleges and university interns. Being from the East Coast herself, Wellons remembers having little awareness of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a potential career landing spot while studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
‘Getting visibility and actually partnering with these schools to make these internships happen is so important . . . [internships] benefit JPL by broadening the talent pool and diversity of our workforce,’ Janelle said.
While interning under Janelle, Kyndall worked on the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) project. MAIA will make radiometric and polarimetric measurements needed to characterize the sizes, compositions and quantities of particulate matter in air pollution.
‘I can confidently say I wouldn’t have grown and learned as much as I have without their [mentors] constant feedback, support . . . and guidance.’
At NASA, our workforce is made up of people who have pursued higher education in countless different fields – but that doesn’t always mean attending a 4-year university right after high school. In fact, many people in the NASA family (astronauts included!) have taken a non-traditional path to their education.
In celebration of Community College month, let’s chat with intern Jessica Bardetsky about her experience attending a community college.
Where It All Began
Since she was a little girl, Jessica has always been fascinated with space saying, “I love space! There is something mysterious about it. The first thing my family did after moving to Texas was visiting NASA. I could never dream that I would be able to work here.”
Jessica, a senior studying Public Health with a minor in Psychology, is a Data Entry intern. As a Data Entry intern Jessica updates master spreadsheets to ensure that each institutional imagery file has a metadata description prior to submission.
Jessica got her start at Lone Star Community College. “Lone Star provided me with the opportunity to complete core curriculum for a fraction of the cost. Attending Lone Star was one of the best decisions I made. Classes are much smaller and provided me with a more engaging learning environment and the opportunity to connect with both teachers and students.”
With excellent academic performance, she was able to transfer to Texas State University, where she was accepted into the National Health Education Honorary, Eta Sigma Gamma. As a member, Jessica connected with others where she was able to develop professional relationships and get involved in community outreach.
Starting at a community college was the first step in gaining the necessary qualifications to get into the honors club and bring what she learned from Eta Sigma Gamma into her NASA internship.
Jessica has some advice for other college students, “Do your research. Look into where you would like to work and contact the organization and ask if they accept interns and how you can become one. Everyone knows that NASA has internship programs, but not everybody knows that you don’t need to Major in Engineering to become an intern with NASA. This organization provides opportunities for non-engineering interns as well as engineering interns.”
Are you interested in learning more about NASA internships? Visit our website for more information on current NASA Internship opportunities. Or, check out our NASA Internship blog. There, you can find valuable tips on the best practices when applying. Also, be sure to follow us @NASAINTERNS on social media to keep up to date on all things NASA Internships!
Stennis Space Center intern Lichelle Brown has always had her eyes on the sky. Growing up, Brown often visited NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, attended “space camps,” and even joined a robotics club. Through these experiences, her passion for science and exploration grew. However, her biggest inspiration and influence was George Washington Carver.
“George Washington Carver endured discrimination and racism throughout his entire career but he still persevered. He taught me that you have to work through the hard times even if you don’t get the credit you deserve,” Brown said.
Carver was an African American scientist and inventor whose work revolutionized the agriculture industry in the United States. Earning the nickname, “Plant Doctor,” Carver’s passion for the study of botany was evident from a young age. As the first African American to be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree, Carver continued his education and earned his Master’s Degree in agriculture science before accepting a position at Tuskegee Institute. As he revolutionized agriculture, Carver’s biggest contribution and success came from his research of the peanut. Although he is remembered as a pioneer of science, Carver’s passion was to help others and promote harmony.
Carver’s story and contributions inspired Brown’s passion and interest in the pursuit of STEM, which ultimately developed into her dream to work at NASA. As a Jackson State University student studying sociology, Brown is part of NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) and is currently interning with NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement. By combining her interest in STEM and her passion to share it with others, Brown is already making history through her own life.
“NASA has broadened my own perspective of life and science,” Lichelle Brown said. “I decided to become a sociologist to help others follow their life path. Through their inclusivity, they have shown me that there is a place for all parts of myself within NASA.”
Since starting her NASA journey, Lichelle Brown’s passions for innovation and exploration have only grown.
“NASA has made a place and an effort for people of color in the company,” Lichelle Brown said. “They work tirelessly to recruit HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) students and other minorities. NASA has shown that they value our presence within the workplace.”