Decades in the Making: Intern’s Non-Traditional Path to NASA Internship

Since the inaugural space shuttle launch in 1981, former intern Mike Fogg has dreamt of working at NASA. Fogg has applied for NASA opportunities since the early 2000s. As Fogg increased his expertise, he continued to apply for internships, but felt that he was at a disadvantage for not having a space-related degree.

“I’ve wanted to work for NASA almost as long as I can remember. I think my first application with NASA was in 2001 or 2002, after I’d left school the first time, for a position for which I was wildly unqualified,” Fogg said.

Fogg returned to school in 2017 to receive a degree in space studies from American Military University. With some convincing from his mentor, he applied to multiple NASA intern positions and ultimately received an internship offer for a role at NASA Headquarters in summer 2023.

“The feeling of finally accepting a position with NASA after so long was one of the greatest senses of relief and excitement I’ve ever felt. The day I received the offer letter stands as one of the most memorable of my life,” Fogg said.

Alt Text: Mike Fogg poses in front of a sculpture of the NASA worm logo outside of NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. NASA is spelled out in large red and shiny block letters. Photo Credit: Mike Fogg
Alt Text: Mike Fogg poses in front of a sculpture of the NASA worm logo outside of NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. NASA is spelled out in large red and shiny block letters. Photo Credit: Mike Fogg

Fogg refers to himself as a non-traditional student. Before receiving the internship, Fogg worked a variety of jobs, from computer systems analyst and project lead at the United States Patent & Trademark Office to technical editor for a forensic engineering firm.

“The ‘traditional’ path to NASA seems to be getting hired just after graduating college or out of the military, whereas I kind of had an entire career beforehand. It’s certainly not a traditional path to be having an internship in your late 40s,” Fogg said.

Fogg worked with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate to update the TechPort website and related database. TechPort houses NASA’s active and complete technology projects. Fogg worked alongside his mentor, Jonathan Bowie.

Alt Text: Mike Fogg stands with his hands on his hips on the edge of the pool inside NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. Within the large pool a replica of the International Space Station is visible beneath the water surface. Photo Credit: NASA
Alt Text: Mike Fogg stands with his hands on his hips on the edge of the pool inside NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. Within the large pool a replica of the International Space Station is visible beneath the water surface.
Photo Credit: NASA

“My mentor has been immensely supportive, not just of the work I’m doing as an intern, but of my attempts to pursue a career here at NASA,” Fogg said. “I have been taught a lot about the inner workings of NASA, its infrastructure, what NASA’s goals are, and how NASA is looking to the future of space exploration.”

Fogg encourages other non-traditional students to “keep trying. As much as you want it to, success is not going to come overnight. Also, you’ve probably got a healthy dose of imposter syndrome due to attempting to change careers later in life – be aware of that and know that you’re not alone in that. It’s never too late.”

Gracie Glover/NASA Headquarters

Celebrating Out-Of-This-World NASA Mentorship

Every year, across the U.S., NASA welcomes over 2,000 interns into our workforce. Each of these interns is also given a mentor who serves a dual role as both a guide and supervisor as they start their careers.

Today, on #NationalMentoringDay we’re celebrating some of the incredible connections that our mentors have helped create by highlighting stories from current interns, past interns, and mentors alike. Below is a selection of out-of-this-world experiences shared by our workforce.

Erin Kisliuk | Former NASA Headquarters Intern & Intern Mentor

How did your mentor influence your career path?

Early on in my internship, my mentor tasked me to schedule interviews with people on our team to learn more about everyone and their roles. What I couldn’t have predicted was all the ways this task would aid in my future.

First, it gave me the confidence to cold call (actually, cold email) people that I didn’t know, which is intimidating. It also taught me about time management and scheduling. These are skills I’ve used time and time again during my career, but also while on the job hunt.

Secondly, it taught me about the depth and breadth of the types of roles that exist on teams at NASA. Before this exercise, I would always say I wanted to do “Space Communications” without realizing the nuances of website, events, outreach, social media, and public relations. Once I could differentiate these roles, I could also identify which parts of communications really made me tick.

Most importantly, it was the beginning of my professional network. Each new person I’d talk to would suggest someone else I should add to my list and I continued these interviews for the duration of my internship. These connections would eventually set me up in a way that would help me learn about and land roles at NASA throughout my career.

Alt Text: Former NASA intern and mentor Erin Kisliuk sits in an interviewing chair inside the film studio at NASA Headquarters. Erin wears business casual attire and smiles at the camera. In the foreground a large video camera records her. To the left of the foreground, a boom microphone hangs overhead. Credit: Erin Kisliuk
Alt Text: Former NASA intern and mentor Erin Kisliuk sits in an interviewing chair inside the film studio at NASA Headquarters. Erin wears business casual attire and smiles at the camera. In the foreground a large video camera records her. To the left of the foreground, a boom microphone hangs overhead. Credit: Erin Kisliuk

What was it like as a former intern becoming a mentor?

It really felt like a full-circle moment for me. I reflected on what made my internship exciting and valuable and wanted to pass that experience along to my interns. I want them to work hard and learn new skills, but I also want them to make friends and connect with other interns and people at NASA because that is the foundation of their professional network.

Mentoring interns was also my first management experience. Sometimes it feels odd to look at it that way, but it was my first time explaining and assigning a task and then following up on it to make sure my interns understood the assignment and were meeting milestones so that they could have a completed project that they could be proud of at the end of their session.

Mentoring is a win-win. The person being mentored is offered knowledge, experience, and companionship from the mentor. But mentors also grow by being able to connect with and learn from the incoming or future workforce. At NASA, we’re always trying to explore innovate, and educate. We can only get there by working together to pass along institutional knowledge and creating a workplace where people feel supported and open to learning and trying new things. To me, that’s what mentoring is all about.

Alt Text: Erin Kisliuk stands smiling wearing sunglasses and a shirt with kittens in spacesuits, below the spacesuits text reads "NASA Headquarters WAshington, DC". Standing in a tent on the National Mall she prepares to support the Apollo 50th anniversary event. Credit: Erin Kisliuk
Alt Text: Erin Kisliuk stands smiling wearing sunglasses and a shirt with kittens in spacesuits, below the spacesuits text reads “NASA Headquarters Washington, DC”. Standing in a tent on the National Mall she prepares to support the Apollo 50th Anniversary event. Credit: Erin Kisliuk

Angel Kumari | NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Intern

How have your mentors influenced your career path?

Mentors have been crucial in my career development, especially at NASA. My mentors, Wade Sisler, and Michelle Handleman always offer their unwavering support, invaluable guidance, a wealth of experience, and unceasing encouragement. My NASA mentors are instrumental in my professional journey by connecting me with a network of like-minded individuals, exposing me to diverse projects, and challenging me to take on more responsibilities.

Alt text: This image is a selfie of two individuals in front of a doorway. To the left is a woman with short black hair, vision glasses, a white shirt, and a black jacket. On the left is a man with white hair and a blue shirt. Both individuals are smiling. Credit: Angel Kumari
Alt text: This image is a selfie of two individuals in front of a doorway. To the left is Amgel Kumari, a woman with short black hair, vision glasses, a white shirt, and a black jacket. On the right is Wade Sisler, a man with white hair and a blue shirt. Both individuals are smiling. Credit: Angel Kumari

Why do you think mentors are important – in general, but also at NASA specifically?

Over the years, I have learned that mentorship is a two-way street. A mentee has to ask for help when they need it to receive the help. My wonderful mentors offer me their unique perspectives without forcing me to take one decision over the other. They are also supportive in letting me test new ideas while actively listening to my experiences. A good mentor will also hold you accountable and provide feedback on how you are performing which is essential. I am immensely fortunate to have exceptional mentors who continue to empower me to explore my career at NASA.

Alt text: This image is taken in the GSFC visitor center. To the left is Angel Kumari, a woman with short black hair, vision glasses, a white shirt, and a black jacket. To the right is Michelle Handleman, a woman with a black jacket and pink dotted dress. Behind them is a poster that reads “NASA Heliophysics. Credit: Angel Kumari
Alt text: This image is taken in the GSFC visitor center. To the left is Angel Kumari, a woman with short black hair, vision glasses, a white shirt, and a black jacket. To the right is Michelle Handleman, a woman with a black jacket and pink dotted dress. Behind them is a poster that reads “NASA Heliophysics”. Credit: Angel Kumari

Matt McDonnell | NASA’s Johnson Space Center Intern

How have your mentors influenced your career path?

Mentors have helped me define the path that I’d like to follow throughout my life. With their guidance, I’ve been able to plan my next moves and anticipate upcoming challenges while also leaving space to enjoy the moment! At NASA, internship mentors are excellent examples of great mentors. They’ve helped me connect my educational background to real-world experience, apply my knowledge to important problems, and find places where I can continue to grow, all while leaving space to look around and appreciate how insanely cool the work that we do really is.

Alt Text: Matthew McDonnell stands in a large hangar at NASA's Johnson Space Center. He wears a light-colored quarter-zip shirt and looks at the camera. In the background a large American flag hangs on the wall, the metallic structure of the hangar illuminated by large overhead lights. Near Matthew large rounded space capsules are visible. Credit: Matthew McDonnell
Alt Text: Matthew McDonnell stands in a large hangar at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He wears a light-colored quarter-zip shirt and looks at the camera. In the background a large American flag hangs on the wall, the metallic structure of the hangar illuminated by large overhead lights. Near Matthew large rounded space capsules are visible. Credit: Matthew McDonnell

What do you think makes someone a great mentor?

I believe anyone can be a great mentor, but it lies in two main factors – experience and approachability. You have to know what you’re talking about to give proper advice, and it also helps if you’ve lived through the experience before. Mentors that I’ve had have years of experience in the fields that they assist me with. But on top of knowledge, you also have to be willing to share it. Great mentors are friendly, approachable, and eager to share their wisdom with you. The “I want to help you” attitude is really what strikes me as an excellent mentor.

Two NASA interns take a selfie together in the reflective visor of a spacesuit. The yellow hues of the visor tints the reflected image.
Two NASA interns take a selfie together in the reflective visor of a spacesuit. The yellow hues of the visor create a tint in the reflected image. Credit: Matthew McDonnell

Join us! Apply for a NASA Internship

Now that you’ve seen the behind-the-scenes out-of-the-world experiences that mentorship through a NASA internship offers, we hope you’ll consider becoming a NASA intern yourself — or, if you’re already part of the team, continuing your internship for an additional session. As a friendly reminder: our Summer 2024 OSTEM Internship applications close on February, 2. 2024.

6 Ways to Celebrate National Intern Day with NASA

National Intern Day is celebrated annually to recognize and highlight the contributions of interns throughout different industries and fields of work. At every NASA center across the country, interns play a critical role in our mission success.

The work of interns at NASA reaches far and wide.  Whether they’re contributing to our social media presence, supporting an engineering project that will one day return humanity to the Moon, or even chronicling NASA’s rich history, our interns’ contributions make us proud.

Looking to join in the celebration this National Intern Day? Here are six ways for interns, mentors, and past interns to celebrate NASA internships.

1. Meet the NASA Administrator

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson poses in a selfie with a group of interns at an Intern Q&A session. Nelson wears a blue suit and the group of interns wear business casual attire. All are smiling. Credit: NASA/Bill Nelson
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson poses in a selfie with a group of interns at an Intern Q&A session. Nelson wears a blue suit and the group of interns wear business casual attire. All are smiling. Credit: NASA/Bill Nelson

The interns of today are the #ArtemisGeneration leaders of tomorrow.

Our interns had the chance to start celebrating National Intern Week early! We hosted a special Q&A session for our interns to meet and ask questions of Administrator Bill Nelson, Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, and Associate Administrator Bob Cabana on Wednesday, July 19.

2. Use Our Celebration Toolkit

Former NASA intern Jasmine Hopkins poses to take a selfie with someone wearing an example space suit. The Spacesuit is bright white with a metallic reflective finish on its bubble-like visor, upon its chest the iconic meatball NASA logo is prominent. Jasmine is wearing a business professional dress and smiles at the camera. Credit: NASA/Mark Knopp
Former NASA intern Jasmine Hopkins poses to take a selfie with someone wearing an example space suit. The Spacesuit is bright white with a metallic reflective finish on its bubble-like visor, upon its chest the iconic meatball NASA logo is prominent. Jasmine is wearing a business professional dress and smiles at the camera. Credit: NASA/Mark Knopp

Are you loving your NASA internship experience? Were you a former intern who now works at NASA full-time? Have you mentored interns and enriched the lives of others?

Check out our Celebration Toolkit which will be released right here on our blog. It includes custom-made visuals you can use on social media in celebration of #NationalInternDay and to share how your NASA internship impacted your life and career.

3. Join Our AMA (Ask Me Anything)

A group of interns stands together smiling inside NASA’s Goddard Research Center’s multimedia studio. In the center of the image a highchair is elevated on a platform with a collection of interns standing around it. In the background a hexagonal decorative wallcovering has the iconic red NASA worm logo jutting out from it. The group of interns are all wearing business casual attire. Credit: NASA/Wade Sisler
A group of interns stands together smiling inside NASA’s Goddard Research Center’s multimedia studio. In the center of the image a highchair is elevated on a platform with a collection of interns standing around it. In the background a hexagonal decorative wallcovering has the iconic red NASA worm logo jutting out from it. The group of interns are all wearing business casual attire. Credit: NASA/Wade Sisler

“What’s it like being a NASA intern? What is the day-to-day of an intern at NASA? What are some of the coolest things interns get to see during their internship? How do you become a NASA intern?”

People have questions—we’ve got the answers! Join in our Reddit Ask Me Anything on r/NASA and r/Internships to have your questions answered live by current interns, former interns, and mentors.

4. Have a Networking and Career Guidance Discussion

Students and young professionals discuss their projects at the Earth Science Applications Showcase Wednesday, August 1, 2018 at NASA Headquarters in DC. Three interns and young professional in business attire speak to one another about their research. Besides them is a large poster with Earth data. In the background more interns and young professional speak. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Now is a great time to ask your mentor for career advice! Build a sturdy foundation to launch your future career post-internship with networking skills and advice gained from a more experienced mentor. From “which NASA centers specialize in your field of study” to “what type of resume is best for applying for a full-time position after your internship concludes,” your mentor may just have the advice you’re looking for.

5. Share Your Internship Accomplishments

An intern wears an augmented reality headset outside while testing out the technology. In the background other interns use similar headsets in the large open and rocky area, it is dark outside. The intern at the center of the image gestures with their hand interacting with the AR interface which is only visible to them. Credit: NASA/James Blair
An intern wears an augmented reality headset outside while testing out the technology. In the background other interns use similar headsets in the large open and rocky area, it is dark outside. The intern at the center of the image gestures with their hand interacting with the AR interface which is only visible to them. Credit: NASA/James Blair

Did you help prepare plans for future cultivation of vegetables in space, design a new computer method to streamline a process supporting the Artemis Program, archive historical NASA documents, or maybe even create a collection of spicy space memes that the public was enamored with? Share your successes and accomplishments as a NASA intern with the world using #NASAIntern and #ArtemisGeneration.

6. Apply for a NASA Internship

Two NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars sit at a desk and work on projects on laptops sitting in front of them. The duo wears casual attire and have NASA lanyards on. In the background a display of a NASA spacesuit is out of focus. Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
Two NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars sit at a desk and work on projects on laptops sitting in front of them. The duo wears casual attire and have NASA lanyards on. In the background a display of a NASA spacesuit is out of focus. Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

Now that you’ve seen the behind-the-scenes fun of a NASA internship, we hope you’ll consider becoming a NASA intern yourself — or, if you’re already part of the team, continuing your internship for an additional session. As a friendly reminder: our Spring 2024 OSTEM Internship applications close on August, 31. 2023.

Visualizing the Future – Yuhan Liu 

Yuhan Liu is standing on the roof of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with her hard hat on.
Yuhan Liu is standing on the roof of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with her hard hat on. 

It is National STEM Day! Today is the day that is dedicated to encouraging everyone to explore their interests in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Yuhan Liu, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, is double majoring in Digital Media Design and Entrepreneurship. She is also a former Technology Design Visualization NASA intern at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “I am overjoyed to be able to witness the many innovations that are helping to bring us back to the Moon,” Liu said. 

SBIR Program and Boeing DV Lab 

As a former Technology Design Visualization NASA intern, Liu worked with NASA’s Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) Program. The SBIR Program funds small businesses and universities to create new NASA technologies. 

Liu also worked with the Boeing Design Visualization (DV) Lab which specializes in 3D laser scans to support ground operations. The Boeing DV Lab leverages 3D scanning, simulations, and modeling to ensure the efficiency and safety of NASA ground operations. In Liu’s day-to-day as an intern, she was usually in the lab, creating a 3D model or simulation of an environment or piece of technology at the Kennedy Space Center. If she is not found in the lab, then she was supporting the team in capturing 3D laser scans of a building, launchpad, or observing technology that is to be modeled in a research lab. 

Liu works with both teams to 3D model, simulate, and communicate new technology that is being developed for the Artemis Program. She has modeled new plant growth systems and launched software and In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) machinery. Her project extended to multiple agencies and various research groups at the Kennedy Space Center. Liu’s most memorable excursion was to the Vehicle Assembly Building, in which the Boeing team came to laser-scan a sagging high bay platform. When one-half of the Orion Capsule Access platform was found to be two inches lower, she performed a laser scan and produced a 3D visualization. 

Every Day is a New Adventure 

Liu has absolutely loved the chance to work with software in the office and grab a safety helmet and see the wonders of the Kennedy Space Center up close. With every day being a new adventure, this internship was a perfect combination of her passions. While working with software to generate meaningful 3D models to contribute to the entire agency’s Artemis efforts, Liu was drawn to the intersection between art and computer science.  

As a computer graphics major, she hopes to invent software that is not only important, efficient, and useful, but also visually compelling. From this position, Liu has learned the significance of 3D modeling and how accurate visualizations can make a tremendous difference in guaranteeing mission safety, advancing new technology, and communicating complicated ideas. 

If you are interested in taking part in the STEM field, then check out our website! Also, don’t be deterred if you are not part of STEM as NASA Internships has many non-STEM positions available. We even have some high school positions! Read more about Drina Shah, a former high school intern at NASA, who worked on artificial intelligence. 

­­­­­­­To the Stars and Back: An Intern’s Five-Year Journey at NASA

Albert Kodua, a former NASA intern at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, standing next to a NASA sign.
Albert Kodua, a former NASA intern at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, standing next to a NASA sign

Curiosity is the essence of our existence. Starting as a 16-year-old junior in high school, Albert Kodua started his career with the Virginia Earth System Science Scholars Program. There, he worked with a team to create a mock NASA mission proposal, which gave him a chance to explore the field of Earth Science. The following year, he participated in the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars Program.

California Wildfires

Greatness can begin beyond a comfort zone. Albert Kodua is currently a master’s student at Virginia Tech, majoring in Materials Science and Engineering. He is also a former NASA intern from the Armstrong Flight Research Center in California and is also affiliated with the Space Grant. Space Grant expands opportunities for individuals to understand and participate in NASA’s aeronautics and space projects by supporting and enhancing science and engineering education, as well as research and public outreach efforts.

At NASA, you generally think about rockets, planets, and outer space. However, at NASA, we study our home planet just as much as we do other celestial bodies. In fact, with our unique vantage point from space, we can gather unique data across the globe in order to help solve problems that happen on earth. For example, as an intern, Kodua studied California wildfires and examined their territorial and pollutant effects. The significance of this project was the use of a machine learning algorithm to connect plant species burned with gaseous pollutants released from wildfires. With this project, he essentially helped see which areas, if burned, could prove to produce more hostile effects on the environment.

Albert Kodua posing in front of a NASA aircraft.
Albert Kodua posing in front of a NASA aircraft.

Reach Your Full Potential

Growing up, Kodua had a lot of role models in STEM, but only a handful that looked like him. As a result, Kodua always tries to be an advocate for underrepresented minorities in STEM. As a mentor in his student career, and with assistance from his multiple mentors from his internship, he believes that mentorship is the key to successfully preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers to grow to their full potential.

This internship made Albert feel a confidence he had not felt in his academic abilities, and it gave him a new sense of journey as a student, and hopefully, long-time researcher.

Kodua worked with NASA L’SPACE, an online program that is open to undergraduate STEM students interested in pursuing a career with NASA. The program was a “hidden gem within the large amount of NASA educational opportunities” that has helped him realize his full potential as a researcher and future leader in STEM.

Are you interested in getting out of your comfort zone and reaching your fullest potential like Albert? Check out our website for internship opportunities! You may also want to check out other up-and-coming interns such as Bianca Ortega, a former NASA intern that worked hard to write her own story to represent Puerto Rican women in STEM.

Grace Pham/ NASA Johnson Space Center

Lunar Soil: The Key to Breathing in Space- Shayla Wilhelm

Shayla Wilhelm standing in front of the Launch Crawler
Shayla Wilhelm standing in front of the Crawler Transporter.

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. 

Internship Takeaway 

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! 

Grace Pham/ NASA Johnson Space Center

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

 

‘I’m Not Qualified,’ Intern’s Life Detour Towards her Dreams

 

‘There is no one road to get where you are going and there is no timeline. I am incredibly happy to use the life experiences I’ve learned on my detour to my internship.’ Susie Bennett interns at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after years of pursuing an entirely different career. (NASA/Susie Bennett).
‘There is no one road to get where you are going and there is no timeline. I am incredibly happy to use the life experiences I’ve learned on my detour to my internship.’ Susie Bennett interns at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after years of pursuing an entirely different career. (NASA/Susie Bennett).

When going through life, our paths may seem linear, but that is far from the truth. For every choice we make, there are multiple options and paths presented to us. When given the opportunity, would you change your path? For Susie Bennett, a current intern at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, her path to an internship was far from linear. With a degree in business and a resume filled with retail management, the idea of ever working at NASA seemed like an out of reach prospect. Despite all of this, she never gave up on her dream of working in the space industry.
 

Rediscovering Past Interests

A common question we all get when going through school is “what do you want to be when you grow up?” While these answers are simply aspirations, they can make a big impact on your field of study. An aspiring doctor may take a bigger interest in biology, an aspiring painter may look more into the arts, or an aspiring engineer may look into welding courses. 

Bennett spent her years in grade school as a lover of space and science. She used her free time reading and watching the shuttles launch from a distance in her southwest Florida home. However, as she grew older, she struggled with the subjects she once was fond of and decided to put STEM behind her in favor of the arts and humanities. 

After obtaining a B.A. in Business Administration, Bennett worked in retail management for a decade. While she gained valuable experience in the industry, she felt that it was lacking the fulfillment she needed. One day, she decided to change all of that. 

A Major Life Change

Bennett enrolled in a biology program as a student researcher on two different projects. In the first, she worked on dissecting mosquitos and evaluating their microbiomes. In the second, she performed spectral analysis of yeast bio transformed compounds in beer. 

With her newly gained knowledge and confidence within the science field, Bennett started as a research and development scientist at a biotech company. Then she continued her journey as a brewery scientist and built a lab program from scratch. During this time, Bennett learned that NASA Internships were available for graduate students.  

With a childhood longing to work in the space industry as her motivator, she immediately went to apply. ‘I realized I was the only person standing in my way. I wasn’t going to stand in my way this time. I wanted to make elementary school me proud,’ Bennett said. 

Bennett’s Time at NASA 

Bennett accepted an offer as an Exploration Research and Technology Programs intern. She worked on a team who researched the unique stressors for biological life in a space environment using plants as the subject. While spaceflight experiments are not always possible due to time constraints and cost, ground-based equipment may be used to simulate the space environment. 

A Zinnia plant pillow floats through the U.S. Destiny Laboratory aboard the International Space Station. The challenging process of growing the zinnias provided an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity. (NASA Johnson Space Center /International Space Station).
A Zinnia plant pillow floats through the U.S. Destiny Laboratory aboard the International Space Station. The challenging process of growing the zinnias provided an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity. (NASA Johnson Space Center /International Space Station).

The team evaluated 40 scientific papers detailing the accuracy of machines stimulating gravity on earth. Data was compiled and reviewed for how closely simulated microgravity results compared to those obtained from experiments conducted in real microgravity. 

‘This internship signifies a major turning point in my life, not necessarily only on a professional level, but on a personal level. It signifies an end to the doubt I’ve let fill my head. It quieted the voice that spent too long telling me, ‘I’m not qualified.’ It marks the moment I realized I can do anything that I put my mind to, and it puts to bed the idea that there is only one path to success,’ Bennet said. 

Take the leap and apply for an internship. Start your application on our website or read more stories about the paths to working for NASA. Want to prepare for your internship? Read about the six habits of successful interns at NASA. 

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