Roy sisters intern at NASA while pursuing their engineering degrees

By Ramona Barajas-Villar

Women’s History Month: Recognizing some of our intern leaders 

At NASA we celebrate Women’s History Month by recognizing some of our interns and their contributions to NASA. Meet the Roy sisters: Puja & Pratima.

Meet Puja Roy, an intern at NASA's Glenn Research Center.
Credits: Puja Roy.

Puja Roy

Puja Roy is an intern at NASA Glenn Research Center and a sophomore at New York City College of Technology majoring in Computer Engineering Technology shares her NASA internship journey. 

Tell us about your intern journey to NASA or anything you would like to share. 

I have been interning remotely at NASA Glenn Research Center since Fall 2020 and I am proud of my accomplishments because working for NASA on a STEM project is the most rewarding experience ever!

What is your role on your current project?

I am a Software Engineer Co-op Intern at NASA Glenn Research Center.

How does your project tie into the Moon To Mars mission? The Artemis program? Any other NASA mission?

I am currently working on the same project “Converting Java Applets to JavaScript for web-based Aeronautics Simulations” which I have been working on during Fall 2020. This STEM project ties into the Moon to Mars mission and the Artemis program because it is an extensively popular site that receives high traffic views and consists of lesson plans, projects and interactive simulations to explore the theory and practice of flight in space.

How are you staying connected to other interns? NASA employees?

I am staying connected to NASA employees and other interns by attending weekly meetings in Microsoft Teams.

What student organization (school, community, etc.) has helped you develop professionally in your STEM/non-STEM journey?

CUNY New York College of Technology and the clubs/organizations that I am affiliated with has helped me develop professionally in my STEM journey by providing me resources and endless opportunities.

How do you feel interning during #CountdownToMars?!

I feel electrified and elated interning during #CountdowntoMars!

Provide a quote about how you feel about your role at NASA.

I feel thrilled and welcomed at NASA of working as a Software Engineer (OSTEM) Co-op intern because I have achieved many accomplishments by contributing to NASA missions, completing online SATERN trainings and gaining support and guidance from my mentors.

Meet Pratima Roy, an intern at NASA's Glenn Research Center.
Credits: Pratima Roy.

Pratima Roy

Pratima Roy, an intern at NASA Glenn Research Center and a senior at New York City College of Technology majoring in Computer Engineering Technology. Roy shares her experiences of interning at NASA. 

Tell us about your intern journey to NASA or anything you would like to share. 

I truly believe that God and the support of my family has given me the opportunity to intern at NASA. God observes everything we do and what we want in our lives and a dream can actually come true!

What is your role on your current project?

I am a Computer Engineering Student studying at CUNY New York City College of Technology. I am enjoying and working very hard on the PeTaL project here at NASA Glenn Research Center. 

How does your project tie into the Moon To Mars mission? The Artemis program? Any other NASA mission?

My project ties into the Moon to Mars mission because I am learning about Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Biomimicry and AWS Web services. Our work can tie into this by having Robots or tasks completed at Moon to gather data and labeling. I know that when the Astronauts go to the Moon, they will need many data collection and research from Moon to Earth. This made me think about how my project ties into this because when going to the Moon we will need information from Moon and other planets. Then we can have that information on Earth. The Scientists and Researchers can work on implementing more strategies and devices to gather and collect in order to reach Mars safely and smoothly. 

How are you staying connected to other interns? NASA employees?

I am connected with NASA employees and other interns through Microsoft Teams and Slack.

What student organization (school, community, etc.) has helped you develop professionally in your STEM/non-STEM journey?

WiTNY and Rewriting the Code has helped me develop professionally in my STEM journey.

How do you feel interning during #CountdownToMars?!

I feel so blessed and excited to intern during the Count down to Mars because I am able to learn and be part of an amazing government agency-wide organization to contribute my work with NASA interns and employees.

Nicholas Bense: Nature & Design at NASA’s Glenn Research Center

To drive forth at the edge of erudition – and indeed physical space itself – is one of the highest pursuits available to humanity and absolutely essential to the growth of our species. This is no small undertaking and it is indeed one that requires a diverse team with diversiform abilities. Although my scientific endeavors have evolved a bit over the years, they have always existed against the backdrop of my ultimate dream to work for NASA.

I began my training in the biological sciences with the intention of attending medical school, however, I have since shifted my interests towards field work involving microbiology and geology to participate in NASA’s exobiology/astrobiology efforts. I am currently applying my data science skills developed through my Master’s program in Bioinformatics and experience with large scale genome wide association studies in clinical cancer research towards my internship at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. This work focuses on the development, analytic tools for Biomimetic engineering.

Life is a methodical architect with the power to devise, improvise, and revise its inventions through millennia into eons. Humanity has long drawn inspiration from the lessons mother nature provides us through the myriad of organisms and the strategies they implement, however the field of Biomimicry as a specialized science is still relatively new and developing.

The purpose of our project at the NASA Glenn is to create a tool to aid in the discovery of elements of nature that apply to specific engineering goals as well as facilitation of the design process. My role in this project utilizes my knowledge of machine learning, database systems and R code to develop and refine our tool, known as the Periodic Table of Life (PeTaL).

NASA’s mission also involves the aggregation of information regarding all the sundry species of the Earth, which provides me the opportunity to further my research of extremophiles and other idiosyncratic life forms. Our team consists of members with a wide variety of different backgrounds including engineering, paleontology, botany and computer science.

The impact of biomimetic research can be observed in many sectors of science, technology and industry. Examples range from the development of the first airplane (supposedly inspired through the observation of lateral control in pigeon flight) to more modern and focused cases including studies concerning spider webs for materials engineering. It is very rewarding to be involved with a project that has the capacity to affect all facets of life and witness firsthand how NASA is working to create technologies that not only push the boundaries of space exploration but serve society as a greater whole.

One great aspect of my internship experience has been how it illustrates the many opportunities at NASA that match any professional career. This has been further reinforced through my involvement with the Pathways Agency Cross Center Connections (PAXC) organization, which is composed of interns with incredibly distinct talents from different NASA Centers. NASA certainly provides many ladders to the stars and they all seem to share quite a beautiful view.

Check out current internship opportunities and more intern stories at intern.nasa.gov.

Alys Averette: New Experiences at NASA Glenn Research Center

Alys Averette never thought she’d attend college. But eight years after graduating high school, she found a way to make it happen… and ended up receiving the opportunity of a lifetime to intern at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

I never thought I was going to go to college – let alone have the opportunity to intern with NASA. After graduating high school at sixteen from a boarding school for troubled youth, I immediately went into the workforce. I spent years working in fast food and retail, with no expectation that I would go to college. After working my way up the retail ladder, I landed a general management position that allowed me to finally pay for myself to attend college classes part-time.

Fast forward two years from that point: I have fallen in love with biology and chemistry, and one day I stumbled across the NASA online internship application. Because I planned to pursue a degree in astrobiology and I was anxious to develop some experience in the field (rather than continue down my path in retail), I thought NASA would be the perfect place for me to apply for an internship. I thought, “Wouldn’t this be incredibly cool if I actually got to say that I’m going to work for NASA?” So, I filled out an internship application and I waited.

Nine months went by and I had almost forgotten about that application – until I had a missed phone call and a voicemail saying “Hello, this is Mary Ann from NASA Glenn calling about a possible internship opportunity…”

I called her back immediately. As she explained to me who she was and the kind of work she does, I kept thinking, “This is impossible, this can’t be real, this can’t be happening!” Even though I had no idea what aerogels were at the time, when my soon-to-be mentor asked if I was interested in the project, I said “Yes, of course, but… are you sure you want me? I’m a bit of a non-traditional student. I’m 24 and only a sophomore in undergrad.” She explained to me that she’s had older students, as well as less-experienced students and they have all been successful in this internship. I had five business days to accept or decline the offer and I knew that if I turned it down, I would be disappointed in myself for who knows how long. So, I accepted the offer.

Even though I had wanted to be involved with NASA since I was a kid, I never imagined it would actually be possible — especially after going to a boarding school that nobody’s heard of, working at Taco Bell for several years, and starting college eight years after high school. Yet, here I am, writing this story in my office at NASA Glenn Research Center.

I’ve spent my time here working on synthesizing polyimide aerogels, which are a unique material that serve many purposes for NASA in missions requiring exceptional thermal or acoustic insulation. Even though I did not know much about these materials when I started, I have learned how they are made and what they can be used for, such as conformal antennae substrates, extravehicular suits and habitats, and inflatable decelerators for atmospheric re-entry. It has been a fascinating project and an unbelievable learning experience. I still can’t believe I have been granted this opportunity.

I want people to know my story because I’ve learned firsthand that it’s never too late to be a part of something meaningful or to do something you’ve always wanted to do. This internship with NASA has helped me to understand that and has provided me with a foundation for pursuing all kinds of goals I never thought I could. I hope my story as an intern at NASA can inspire hope in others who, like me, might have thought they were too nontraditional, inexperienced, or different to pursue their dreams and, instead, realize that it’s never too late.