Persistence is Key – Bianca Ortega

A former NASA intern at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, inside the NASA Center for Climate Simulation.
A former NASA intern at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, inside the NASA Center for Climate Simulation.

Commitment is the foundation of great accomplishments. With dreams to be a pilot, Bianca Ortega flew remote-controlled airplanes in the sky when she was younger. When high school came around, her dreams started to expand, and she instead started to program and send her work into space. It was her first physics class in high school that guided her to find a new purpose for a newer mindset. Ortega wanted her work to mean something and so her skills were put to the test.

Data Visualization and Machine Learning Involvement

“It is one thing to be great at something, but it is an entirely different thing to use that skill not for your own, but for the pursuit of knowledge.” Ortega said. Currently, Ortega is a Senior at Kean University in New Jersey. She is double majoring in Computational Science and Mathematics, and minoring in Applied Physics. Ortega is also a former NASA intern at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where she worked on a project titled “Applications of Data Visualization and Machine Learning to HPC Logs.” Her project took place at NASA’s Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS). The NCCS uses supercomputers, the main one being called “Discover,” which examined and used machine learning and different data visualization techniques through recorded performance .

Ortega’s experiment was made possible with the use of The ELK (Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana) Stack. The NCCS and NASA rely heavily on Discover to tackle some of their most challenging computational projects for the Science Mission Directorate to date. The purpose of her project was to find ways to correct user error behavior and detect —or ideally, predict system failures before they can happen. With that goal, this project would allow NASA scientists the best experience while using NASA’s NCCS Supercomputers.

Hard Work Pays Off

Ortega says that this internship is “a testament that hard work does pay off.” She hopes that everyone knows that their story is different from anyone else. Ortega came from a long line of Puerto Rican women, and she never really saw a lot of Women in STEM growing up, so she felt alone. “For any and all the young women out there, just know that you are not and will never be alone,” Ortega said.

If you are looking to write your own story, check out our website for opportunities regarding internships and more! You can also read other cool and empowering stories such as Rama Diop, a former intern that contributed to laser welding in

Grace Pham/ NASA Johnson Space Center

 

 

 

Intern Contributes to Laser Welding in Space Advancements

A technician performs welding on the KAMAG spacecraft transporter, inside a facility at the crawler yard at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Welding is being performed on the attach points that will hold the Orion transportation pallet in place (NASA/Ben Smegelsky).
A technician performs welding on the KAMAG spacecraft transporter, inside a facility at the crawler yard at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Welding is being performed on the attach points that will hold the Orion transportation pallet in place (NASA/Ben Smegelsky).

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.

Internship Takeaways

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

 

Touchdown! Intern Works on Safe Parachute Landings

An image of Andrew Hoang
Credit: Andrew Hoang

One choice can open many doors and provide the experience of a lifetime. For Andrew Hoang, it was his decision to join a research lab, eventually leading to his internship at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

“An experience like no other, I have enjoyed every moment of my time as a NASA intern. I hope to use what I have learned to inspire others to pursue their goals, whether it’s applying for an internship at NASA or a dream job,” Hoang said.

Discovery

Hoang joined a research lab while studying at UNC Chapel Hill in order to gain experience outside of the classroom. His time in the lab led to a fascination with the effects of the undersea environment on human physiology.

Hoang learned about existing clinical problems such as decompression sickness (DCS), which occurs when dissolved gases form bubbles inside the body. He felt called to find potential solutions.

Hoang’s research experience introduced him to medical problems in space. The pressurized environment is one of the causes of DCS. While searching for more information on the space and DCS connection, Hoang stumbled upon NASA internships and decided to apply.

“I believed that obtaining an internship would give me the rare opportunity to connect with world-class field experts to gain invaluable insight in aerospace as well as be at the forefront of research development projects. Therefore, I decided to pursue the NASA internship and make the best of every moment here,” Hoang said.

NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program is back in Wanaka, New Zealand, for another flight test of its super pressure balloon, or SPB, technology to support science missions for longer flight durations, with flights running up to 100 days. (NASA/Wallops Flight Facility).
NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program is back in Wanaka, New Zealand, for another flight test of its super pressure balloon, or SPB, technology to support science missions for longer flight durations, with flights running up to 100 days. (NASA/Wallops Flight Facility).

Balloon Research and Development

Currently, Hoang interns at the Balloon Research and Development Laboratory and studies the service life of gondola parachutes used in recovering equipment from high-altitude balloon campaigns.

Hoang determines how much strength in the gondola parachute material is lost following each flight and explores possible solutions to reduce the loss. Reusing the parachute is vital to reduce costs for flight materials, explore other cost-effective avenues for conducting investigations on planetary sciences, and encourage the development and improvement of reusable parachutes.

NASA completed the final test to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts, checking off an important milestone on the path to send humans on missions to the Moon and beyond in September 2018. (NASA/Wallops Flight Facility).
NASA completed the final test to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts, checking off an important milestone on the path to send humans on missions to the Moon and beyond in September 2018. (NASA/Wallops Flight Facility).

“Attaining this internship proved that all the meticulous efforts and extra hours I put in to create a holistic application were worth it. I learned a lot about myself as I filled out the application. I have been grateful for the immense support and dedication that my mentors and fellow staff members have given me during my time as an intern,” Hoang said.

Mentorship

Mentors, Dr. Sarah Roth and Dr. Christopher Yoder, taught Hoang how to improve his networking skills, connected him with professionals in his future career field, and gave him tips on creating an effective experimental plan for future implementation.

“NASA is a place for everyone of any major and background. If you want to make a positive impact on the world, NASA provides the available resources and opportunities to help you accomplish that goal. Never stop asking questions. Dream big and aim high. Everyone has the capability of making a huge contribution towards the advancement of humankind,” Hoang said.

Continue learning about inspiring NASA interns and read about a fellow intern’s journey. If you want to be part of the advancement of NASA missions, visit our website to learn about qualifications and opportunities.

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center

 

Pathways From Internship to NASA- Nicholas Houghton

Nicholas Houghton interned at NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). He now works full-time with the Orion Crew Survival Systems team. The Orion Crew Survival System suit is designed to protect astronauts on launch day, in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth. (NASA Johnson Space Center / Nicholas Houghton).
Nicholas Houghton interned at NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). He now works full-time with the Orion Crew Survival Systems team. The Orion Crew Survival System suit is designed to protect astronauts on launch day, in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth. (NASA Johnson Space Center / Nicholas Houghton).

Nicholas Houghton dreamed about becoming an astronaut but initially pursued an internship in the automotive industry instead. He never felt connected to his role, so he decided he wanted to pursue his childhood aspiration with an internship in the space industry. In 2018, after networking with dozens of people to learn about NASA and the application process, he accepted his first internship at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Strategic Partnerships Integration.

At NASA

Houghton’s next step was the following year at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a Space Suit Engineer intern. He was involved in the Pathways Internship Program: offering a direct pipeline to full-time employment at NASA upon graduation.

Houghton then worked on the Orion Crew Survival Systems team (OCSS): the mission to build the next generation launch and entry suit along with the associated crew survival and recovery hardware the crew uses upon return to Earth.

OCSS

Houghton’s projects for the OCSS team include making an ice-based portable cooling unit for the OCSS suit and modifying an Orion seat mockup in the OCSS lab to incorporate a working display and control unit. The portable cooling unit allows the crew to stay cool while going to the launch pad and during the capsule and crew recovery process. The Orion seat mockup mimics the cockpit and control layout found in the Orion Spacecraft and is used to ensure the OCSS suit is properly sized for each crew member.

‘The OCSS team is very close, and my team members are always willing to answer questions, teach me about the suit, or help me with my projects,’ Houghton said.

One thing Houghton wished he knew before his internship was that NASA accepts interns from every state in the US. ‘I grew up in Michigan and I had no idea that working at NASA was a realistic option. I wish I had known that NASA accepts interns from all over the United States,’ Houghton said.

With his involvement in the Pathways Internship Program and his recent double degree in Master of Science in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering and Industrial Human Factors Engineering at Purdue University, Houghton is set to become a full-time employee at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on the Orion Crew Survival Systems team.

Want To Be A NASA Intern?

If you are a US citizen or from a participating country, make sure to visit our website and apply for a NASA internship. You never know where it will take you! Need some advice on applying? Check out the ten things you can do to prepare for a NASA internship. Or, for more inspiration, read about Nylana Murphy, a Navajo Intern Engineer, and her goal to demonstrate to native students that the world is for them.

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center

 

 

 

Navajo Intern Engineer Hopes to Inspire Native American STEM Students

As an American Indian College Fund ambassador and a Navajo engineer, Nylana Murphy aims to demonstrate to native students that the ‘world is for [them].’ 

Murphy first gained interest in NASA while learning about internships during the American Indian Science Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference: ‘a three-day event focused on educational, professional, and workforce development for Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands.’ 

Following the AISES conference, MAIANSE, which seeks to increase American Indian and Alaska Native engagement in STEM through authentic NASA experiences, helped Murphy with a summer internship offer. 

Murphy used her networking skills to secure two additional NASA internships in the additive manufacturing research lab at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.  

‘An internship isn’t just a job — it’s a foundation. A foundation built for one’s success. My internships have helped me get to where I am. Without the great opportunity of hands-on communication, I wouldn’t be in the direction of aerospace,’ Murphy said. 

While working on the additive manufacturing project, Murphy gained hands-on technical experience within a team at the agency. During her internship, she also used three-dimensional printing for Inconel 625 powder, which plays a significant role in aerospace utility tasks.  

Along with her part-time internship, Murphy juggled life as a full-time student at Navajo Technical University, pursuing her degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in additive manufacturing. 

Murphy hopes to use her degree and skill set to continue exploration and to inspire more Native American students in the world of STEM and NASA. 

‘There is a career for everyone, where their dreams can become reality. With a focus on education and the help of other technologically inquisitive Native students, those dreams WILL become a reality,’ Murphy said. 

Do YOU want to be on the NASA team? Check out our website to find information on eligibility and application steps. Or, for more inspirational stories about our interns, such as Mallory Carbon, check out some of our other intern features on our blog.

Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern
Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor
NASA Johnson Space Center

Aspirations of An #ArtemisGeneration Pathways Intern- Jetro Gallo

Jetro Gallo, Spring 2022 Intern
Photo Credit- Norah Moran

What is an aspiration? According to Webster, an aspiration is the “strong desire to achieve something high or great.” While to some, there is nothing higher or greater than the stars. For Jetro Gallo, a Pathways Intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, his aspirations go even further by learning as much as he can now so that he can help others through eventual leadership and mentorship opportunities.

From the Beginning

Gallo’s professional background starts off in the Marine Corps. Serving as a platoon sergeant, he found that the most satisfying and fulfilling things was to give back to others. In one instance, he nominated a junior marine to receive a Navy and Marine Corps achievement medal. After going through the process, the nomination was accepted and approved and Gallo got the opportunity to present the medal at a ceremony. Gallo remembers the marine being stunned but thankful to see that he was recognized for his work.

Current Aspirations

Gallo’s path to NASA goes through the Pathways Internship program. This program offers a direct pipeline to full-time employment at NASA upon graduation. His first work rotation was in the ISS Procurement Office where he had a great amount of support from his mentors.

Once he becomes proficient at his job, he aspires to become the Manager or Deputy Manager of a whole office one. He believe these roles will satisfy a fulfillment in me to give back to others. During his time, he wants to develop a deep sense of understanding himself in terms of leadership and his abilities to provide ways to inspire, motivate, and propel the whole teams to move forward. This is all propelled by his drive to constantly find ways to continue growing, developing, and improving for the honor of serving the teams who look to him so that he can make sound judgments to propel NASA forward in all the agencies’ goals.

A Look Into the Future

So, what does the future hold? For starters, Gallo wants to fix the gap of students not thinking that they are capable. He also wants to help showcase their young minds so that they can achieve great things and spark their interest in the aerospace industry. Another aspiration of his is to establish a school in my birth country (Philippines). He would love to give back to birth country of the Philippines to inspire, motivate, and provide opportunities for the young citizens in his poverty-stricken province by assisting with their education.

How to Be a NASA Intern

What’s your aspirations? If you aspire to be a NASA Intern, check out our website for the requirements and application deadlines. For a head start, we created a piece on the 10 things you can do to prepare for a NASA Internship. Or check out our blog for more inspirational stories of all the amazing things our NASA Interns do.

3 Life Lessons From NASA Interns

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.

Credits: Jorge Levario-Delagarza
Credits: Jorge Levario-Delagarza

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.

Credits: Pia Sen
Credits: Pia Sen

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.

Credits: Dominic Tanzillo
Credits: Dominic Tanzillo

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.

Megan Hale / NASA Johnson Space Center

Intern Hopes to Research the Neurological Health of Astronauts During Missions

‘It has been unlike any other time in my life. I wish I had known before my internship that every chance you don’t take is an opportunity lost. I could never have anticipated what I experienced this summer.’’ Sewall interns at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Photo credit: (NASA/Michaela Sewall).
‘It has been unlike any other time in my life. I wish I had known before my internship that every chance you don’t take is an opportunity lost. I could never have anticipated what I experienced this summer.’’ Sewall interns at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Photo credit: (NASA/Michaela Sewall).

As a freshly graduated high school senior with little technical experience in the field, Michaela Sewall contacted Chad Stephens and Dr. Alan Pope, research scientists at NASA’s Langley Research Center (LRC), after reading their published paper on  bio-cybernetic adaptation strategies for human operators interacting with machines or computers.

Curiosity

Michaela was curious about engineering, brain function, physics, space, and medicine — but she was uncertain on how to piece together these areas of study. After landing an internship at NASA’s LRC, she began working on psycho-physiological research for autonomous aviation in the In-Time System-Wide Safety Assurance as part of NASA’s Aeronautics Airspace Operations and Safety Program.

Interning virtually this past summer, Michaela drove to her father’s office in the morning and worked from his conference room. She would set up her Raspberry Pi, a small computer used to learn programming, and biosensors to conduct her research throughout each day.

The Study

‘Everyone is so willing to help and answer any questions you have.’ Michaela studies electrical engineering and neurobiology at Washington University in St. Louis as an undergraduate sophomore. Photo credit: (NASA / Michaela Sewall).
‘Everyone is so willing to help and answer any questions you have.’ Michaela studies electrical engineering and neurobiology at Washington University in St. Louis as an undergraduate sophomore. Photo credit: (NASA / Michaela Sewall).

She directed a study, ‘Investigating the Effects of Passive and Adaptive Bio-Cybernetic Two Dimensional and Virtual Reality Stimulus on Psychophysiological and Cognitive State Reactions,’ and coordinated a team of advocates to communicate complex engineering concepts to non-engineers.

‘It has been unlike any other time in my life. I wish I had known before my internship that every chance you don’t take is an opportunity lost.’

Goals

With goals to become a neuroengineer with a background in electrical engineering, neuroscience, and medicine, Michaela’s career aspirations involve researching the neurological, psychophysiological, and biological health of the astronauts before, during, and after their missions.

‘I have had the opportunity to speak to flight surgeons and center directors all because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and asked for a few minutes of their time. Everyone is so willing to help and answer any questions you have.’

Do YOU want to be on the NASA team? Check out our website to learn more about the Artemis Generation and find information on eligibility and application steps. 

Claire A. O’Shea / NASA Johnson Space Center

From Star Ceiling Stickers to Mission Design- Lauren Daniels

A picture of NASA Intern Lauren Daniels
‘Boulder is my favorite town on the planet.’ Lauren Daniels pictured on the Lost Gulch Park overlook in Boulder, Colorado. Lauren attends the University of Colorado Boulder as an engineering student. ‘I was determined that a career in STEM would be the right fit for me so I decided on aerospace engineering. This made the University of Colorado Boulder the obvious choice when it came time to pick a school. I couldn’t have made a better decision.’ Photo credit: (NASA/Lauren Daniels).

Lauren Daniels’ interest in space first started when she was a child. In elementary school, her bedroom was adorned with themes of space, complete with ‘glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling’ and posters from a neighbor that had presented about space to her entire first grade class. At the age of 6, Lauren attended a space camp and was selected as commander for the mock base in a simulation mission of ‘lunar explorers.’

Fast forward to high school, she was captivated by math, science, and astronomy, and was third in her class upon graduation. Lauren decided to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering.

NASA Intern Laruen Daniels in front of the flag of the United States and NASA's flag.
‘From the moment I heard the word, I knew I wanted to be an astronaut.’ Lauren Daniels at her NASA Pathways internship headshot photoshoot. Photo credit: (NASA/ Lauren Daniels).

Her intern journey began when she first worked on Orion Spacecraft with Lockheed Martin: the exploration vehicle that will carry human crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.

‘This experience strengthened my love of all things NASA, and encouraged me to apply for the Pathways Internship Program. I didn’t get in the first time I applied, but I kept applying as often as I could, and eventually I was accepted.’

As an intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Lauren works on mission design insight for the Human Landing System (HLS). She runs a trade study that analyzes different times and places that humans could land on the moon, updates the flight plan to match the latest designs, and creates a tool to analyze lighting and communication availability on various landing trajectories.

A concept illustration of SpaceX Starship Human Landing System (HLS).
Illustration of SpaceX Starship Human Landing System (HLS) design that will carry the first NASA astronauts to the surface of the Moon under the Artemis program. Illustration credit: (SpaceX/NASA).

Many students still have some misconceptions when it comes to applying for a NASA internship. We’re here to change that. Take a look at the article to read five common myths debunked from our interns. Do YOU want to be on the NASA team? Check out our website to learn more about the Artemis Generation and find information on eligibility and application steps.

When the Stars Align- Jorge Arturo Levario-Delagarza

NASA Intern Jorge Levario-Delagarza sitting in a mock shuttle cockpit.
Credits: Jorge Levario-Delagarza

My name is Jorge Arturo Levario-Delagarza and I am proudly from El Paso, Texas. To give a bit of insight about me, I lived in different parts of Mexico for few years as a toddler before my parents moved to Dallas, Texas where I grew up. Currently attend the University of Texas at Arlington majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Biomedical Engineering. 

Being the oldest child and first in my family to go through the United States school system has been a learning curve for my whole family. As a first-generation student, I have learned to adapt to the culture and environment of a new country growing up since my parents grew up in a different country in a different environment.  

Growing up, I remember my grandpa was a NASA enthusiast despite never having visited. My NASA concept as a kid was that NASA was a place where rocket scientists in lab coats and astronauts worked on top secret projects that went to outer space. I knew NASA was an awesome place, but even as a kid, I had a mental barrier that NASA was unattainable. 

My Background 

NASA Intern Jorge Levario-Delagarza working with industrial machinery.
Credits: Jorge Levario-Delagarza

My journey to a NASA internship has not been linear. I was not initially accepted into UT-Arlington and had to write a letter of appeal to be reconsidered. I started in the lowest level math class, college algebra, while working full time. After moving around between Uber driving and working as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the UT-Arlington College of Engineering, I went to a conference that changed my life, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) National Conference in Phoenix. This conference opened my eyes and set off a lot of dominoes. 

After the conference, I became an active member in SHPE UT-Arlington chapter where I gained leadership experience serving as Community Outreach Director, Vice President, and eventually President. I currently serve 40+ SHPE chapters as a Vice Regional Student Representative. 

Through SHPE mentors, I knew I needed technical experience, so I trained my SOLIDWORKS skills to become a Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate in Mechanical Design. After reading “An Inside Account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer”, I made a life changing decision to join the UT-Arlington ROVER Team. Committing all this time gave me the opportunity to eventually serve as Mechanical Arm Lead and even Chief Mechanical Officer. Most rewarding part was when we as a team qualified for the University ROVER Challenge (URC) for the first time in 4 years. UT-Arlington was one of 15 out of 88 teams worldwide to qualify for URC 2021.  

Getting to NASA 

NASA Intern Jorge Levario-Delagarza standing outside the Orion Capsule.
Credits: Jorge Levario-Delagarza

After this wild ride at URC, I got selected for my first ever internship at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control which only took me 200+ engineering internship rejections and 4 years in college to achieve. 6 months later, I saw an announcement posted on LinkedIn by a NASA mentor. I directly messaged him my resume and portfolio of the projects I had worked on during undergrad. After several interviews within a week, I got the call that I got a NASA internship while I was with my SHPE UT-Arlington group in Orlando, Florida. Sometimes, the stars really do align!  

Next Steps 

I plan on completing my education at UT-Arlington while supporting projects at NASA. My future goals are to eventually become a USAF test pilot, a US Navy Diver, attain a Masters or PhD in Mechanical Engineering, with the end goal to work on Artemis projects full-time at NASA. While my experience getting to NASA has definitely not been linear, there’s always an opportunity for those who persevere and get to work. 

Want to learn more about NASA internships or some of our amazing interns? Visit us online for the latest internship opportunities that are available to both high school and college students. Be sure to check out our guide on How You Can Prepare. Or, read more stories about our amazing interns at the NASA Internship blog. For more information on NASA internships or learn about other amazing NASA intern stories, visit us online at nasa.intern.gov. 

 Written by: Megan Hale