I found out about my internship offer while I was in the midst of packing up to leave my university for summer break and finishing up the last of my finals. I only had a handful of weeks to figure out where I would be staying, how I would be getting to work, and how I would manage to survive 10 weeks in the South all on my own.
I Think I May Be Homeless!
By this time, a lot of interns had found their roommates, carpools, and many living spaces in the area were full. I remember desperately calling apartments as soon as they opened for business in the morning and writing emails to potential landlords right before I boarded my plane home.
Rental Cars Are Not An Option
Because of my age, I would not be able to rent a car in the area and frantically reached out to every intern I could to ask about possible carpools. I dipped into my savings to figure out my plane ticket to Mississippi and made an Excel worksheet to calculate all my expenses. I had never really been to the South and had no idea what to expect.
No Bed, No Car, No Problem
It was like moving into college all over again, but I had no information, no idea of what to do, and a looming deadline that was rapidly approaching. At one point, I was afraid I would land in Mississippi and be completely homeless, without a ride, and miles away from work. Luckily, a room with a Stennis employee opened up at the last minute. However, as I laid in my bed the night before my internship started, I still had no ride and feared that I would have no choice but to leave my internship before the first day. My housemate even suggested that I should I start looking at plane tickets to go back home.
Don’t Tell Me I Can’t!
I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to get to the Stennis Space Center, but I was determined to make it there the first day and set foot into NASA. I did not travel 2,286 miles to quit my journey before it had even begun.
You Will Figure It Out
I am incredibly fortunate that Stennis has the best interns and grateful that so many people offered to help after I shared my plight on the first day. Before lunch, I had a carpool set in place and several new friends who offered to go out of their way to make sure I would be able to make it to work every day. Every time we make weekend plans or after work outings, someone always offers me a ride to make sure I won’t be excluded if I want to go. I am very appreciative that everything worked out for me and I can’t wait to see how the rest of this internship will go!
To learn more about NASA Internships, please visit intern.nasa.gov. Start your journey today! #NASAinterns
My name is Daleen M. Torres and I study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. NASA has always been one of those places where I never thought I would work. I originally wanted to work in the biomedical industry, but when I visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, a tiny spark lit up in me. My best friend who was with me at the time could tell that I was all starry-eyed and amazed when I saw the spacecraft and airplanes. This was where my initial interest for aerospace came.
In my Freshman year, I quickly sought out opportunities in aerospace-related internships and projects. As a volunteer in the Aerodesign Team, a group dedicated to designing and manufacturing radio controlled airplanes; I was able to learn more about aerospace and the importance of teamwork. However, I still wanted to explore the space aspect of the aerospace industry. After participating in the Aerodesign competition in California, it was difficult to keep up with the emails sent to my university email. I had to catch up with my classes I had missed out on. When I saw that an employee from NASA was requesting resumes from students via email, I got excited. Unfortunately, it was already too late to send out my resume. The deadline had passed. Regardless of that, I still sent out the resume. I did not get the opportunity to go to NASA at that time.
In my Sophomore year, after a long day at my university, I saw this flyer that talked about this cool space program called Lucy Pipeline Accelerator and Competency Enabler (L’SPACE Academy). It’s a 12-week NASA online program where scientists and engineers teach undergrad students mission procedures that are later used to solve a mission-related design challenge. After being accepted in the program, I was assigned to a team which I led as the project manager. The program motivated me to reach out to NASA again by applying for a summer internship. About three days later, the same NASA employee I had sent my resume to in my freshman year called to set up an interview. It was 8:00 pm and I was sitting by the tv, watching Netflix. I almost dropped my phone when he said he was from NASA.
I am now a NASA Intern at the Goddard Space Flight Center. It has been a dream come true. One of my favorite aspects of Goddard hat I get to see on a daily basis is diversity and inclusion. Most of the people in the team that I work in are female scientists. It’s amazing to see how much the female presence in the scientific community has increased over the years. Some decades ago, this did not happen. Everywhere I go, I get to see people from different cultures. I have met people from France, Spain, Jamaica, Korea, Africa, and much more.
The project that I am working on is called Light Field Microscopy for Future Space Missions. It will serve to make geochronology (the science for age dating of rocks, minerals, stones, and fossils) experiments of different planets within the Solar System. This would permit geologists to improve current knowledge of the planets. As an engineering student, I will help develop the K-Ar (Potassium to Argon) Laser Experiment (KArLE). It measures the age of rocks by obtaining the amount of atoms of Potassium and Argon in the sample. In other words, KArLE uses K-Ar dating. Optimizing the measurements of the volume of pits in samples by researching different flight-proven methods would enable KArLE to be more precise.
So far, everyday at NASA has been unique. After passing through the security entrances, I get to an office, read emails and plan out my day. I set up meetings if necessary and jot down any activity or presentation at GSFC that catches my eye. Then, I head down to a lab where I get to work with this cool Lytro camera that uses light field technology to map out the depth values in a picture. I also get to work with two different microscopes. Occasionally, I participate in different activities available for interns and employees.
In 2016, a friend messaged me on Facebook asking if I knew any college juniors or seniors that would like to apply for internships at the Virginia Arts Festival, one of Virginia’s leading performing arts presenters. I, an overly eager college sophomore, jumped at the opportunity. After gaining further information and awkwardly trying to backpedal, I realized there was no harm in applying. I was blessed to acquire the position, and as a result became fascinated with marketing and communications. Fast forward about two years, after two internships in the entertainment industry, I am currently a communications intern at NASA Langley Research Center. Having transitioned from the entertainment industry into the STEM field, I’ve learned that these very different environments share a range of similarities. From working with artists to working with engineers I have found that in every workplace, communication is the foundation of clarity, understanding and collaboration.
In my current role I support outreach and interdepartmental communication for the Fabrication Technology Development Branch (FTDB). This takes many forms which are determined by the audience and content. For outreach, organizational tours are the primary form of communication. Tours, which vary by age and number of attendees, act as educational events that cover the capabilities and projects in FTDB. For internal communication, I create Snapshots for the Engineering Directorate on behalf of FTDB. Snapshots are weekly updates that allow employees to follow the progress of major projects and feature their work or contributions.
To improve the accuracy and clarity of communication, I study the equipment in FTDB, manage the employee Snapshot database, and regularly speak with researchers to fact-check information concerning their projects. However, I’ve found that accurate, clear communication isn’t enough. Well-rounded communication should also be personable because people are interested in the employees behind the work. I’ve had the opportunity to orchestrate tours for employees, students and fellow interns. During the summer, I gave a tour to a group of NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars that taught me the value of well-rounded communication. I gave my rehearsed speech and included a little information about myself, a community college graduate. Later, one of their supervisors thanked me saying, “You helped them see themselves here.” The tour was well received, but not because it contained a lot of technical information. It was well received because of our commonality. That experience taught me that communication is the essence of human connection, and I am thankful every day that I have the opportunity to support communication here at NASA.
Jasmine Hopkins is a current student at Christopher Newport University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. She previously earned her Associate of Science in Business Administration from Tidewater Community College.
I always had a passion for art and science, but was unsure as to what career path would incorporate both interests. After doing some research, I discovered the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields and decided that I wanted to be one of the world’s problem solvers – I wanted to be an Engineer.
When I informed my parents of my decision, my father replied, “Margo, why don’t you do something easy?” Initially convinced that my father doubted my ability to perform well academically, I made sure to inform him of every A I earned throughout my years in high school to demonstrate that I had the ability to succeed as an engineering student. However, it was not until I started my engineering journey at Valencia College in Central Florida that I realized academia was not the only challenge I was going to encounter.
Walking into my “Introduction to Engineering” course, I was one of approximately twenty women in a large auditorium filled with men. Realizing there was no amount of studying to overcome this surprising statistic, I found myself very discouraged. Looking for words of encouragement, I came across one of John F. Kennedy’s famous quotes during his speech about the Apollo program, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” With those words in mind, I transfigured any feelings of discouragements into motivation and took the lead role for the engineering project assigned to each group. Although there were many hurdles along the way, I discovered that embedded in every failure and mistake is a lesson to learn and a challenge to overcome.
This self-epiphany convinced me to attempt a goal that originally appeared out of reach – interning at NASA. With little to no previous experience besides handling cash, I doubted my first internship would be at one of the world’s most prestigious aerospace agencies. Remembering my passion of opposing challenges, I converted every ounce of doubt into determination and applied to an internship at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center located in Merritt Island, Florida. I informed my parents that, if given the opportunity, I would accept the offer without hesitation regardless of how far it was from home. To my surprise, I received and accepted the offer on my birthday. Wishes do come true!
Interning at Kennedy Space Center has allowed me to enhance my leadership and problem solving skills with the practice of open communication and collaboration. I also get the opportunity to practice my concept of transfiguration the NASA way by “failing forward” and interpreting mistakes as lessons. Going forward, I will apply this ideology to fuel my passion of becoming an engineer so that I may influence other women to pursue a degree in STEM and continuously improve myself in both academia and life itself.
What does it mean to be a space law intern? What does space law even mean? Before beginning our summer internship, we had very little exposure to this exciting world. Now that we’ve gained a bit of experience, we’d like to share what a typical week looks like.
University of Virginia School of Law (Expected 2020)
University of Florida, M.S. in Management (2016), B.A. in Spanish and International Studies (2015)
When I was little, I watched the Apollo 13 movie over and over again ꟷ surprised each time that duct tape saved the astronauts. Since then, I admittedly have not had much interaction with space… but when I was given the chance to tackle space law, I accepted because, really, who wouldn’t want to work for NASA? These past few weeks have been a major learning curve in space technology and NASA acronyms. Here, the day-to-day attorney work mostly revolves around what happens on Earth: administrative, procurement, and intellectual property law, among many other practice areas. Each day has been new adventure, and I’m excited to learn more about the federal government throughout the summer.
Harvard Law School (Expected 2020)
Washington University in St. Louis, B.A. in Political Science (2016)
On the very first day of law school, we were asked to envision our future. What was the coolest thing we could possibly imagine doing in our careers? My answer: to be the first lawyer in space. To me, space is the future, and I want to be at the forefront of helping shape and enforce the laws that make space exploration possible. This summer, I’ve gotten the chance to advance one step closer; by enhancing my knowledge of the law through fascinating administrative law projects, and by learning what it takes to actually go into space.
What does our week look like?
Our drive into Kennedy Space Center each morning takes us down the causeway, a thin grass strip cutting across the heart of the shimmering Indian River. Approaching KSC, the mockup of a red external fuel tank that looms above the Visitor Center’s Atlantis exhibit serves as a landmark, an immediate reminder to all who enter: we’re in space territory now. While at KSC, we’ve had the unbelievable opportunity to visit the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the tallest single-story building in the world; see the launch pads, crawler-transporter, and mobile launcher; and many of the center’s non-space wonders, such as the alligators, wild pigs, and native birds that call this nature preserve home.
Amid this incredible world of space vehicles and the people who bring inventions to life, we study the law. It may seem less glamorous, but it’s no less important. In the Chief Counsel’s office, we help research the laws that determine who works on these projects and how people interact; how we get all the supplies needed; who has “rights” to these newly developed inventions; and most importantly, how it’s all paid for. In other words, we look at laws in the realm of employment, ethics, intellectual property, procurement, and appropriations.
On any given Monday, you may find us researching an issue in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), trying to find the relevant clause. Or you may find us looking up cases – hours of modifying search terms and reading through opinions waiting for that exciting flash of recognition… a case that directly addresses our research question!
Tuesdays are for staff meetings! The entire Chief Counsel’s office gathers to discuss the week’s most important legal issues, both the big, ongoing concerns and the “small fires” – pressing issues the attorneys need to untangle to ensure everything runs smoothly.
On Wednesday mornings, we attend meetings with the Technology Transfer Office. The 1958 Space Act directs NASA to “provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof.” In keeping with this directive to disseminate NASA inventions, Tech Transfer facilitates commercialization efforts for NASA Kennedy Space Center-developed technologies. The work often involves consultation with the intellectual property law team to review patentable technologies, licensure capabilities, and any concerns related to proprietary information.
One incredible opportunity we’ve had is to take tours of NASA facilities and labs. For instance, last Thursday we visited the Vegetable Production System lab, or “Veggie,” which allows for plant growth in space. NASA has been involved in the development of several crops – for example, lettuce was recently grown on the International Space Station (check this out to see the astronauts eat it!). As NASA plans for longer voyages, growing plants that can provide replenishment of nutrients vital to human health are high in demand. Peppers are a great space-crop candidate – they have nearly quadruple the amount of Vitamin-C as a glass of orange juice. We even got to try some! Additionally, growing plants in space also benefit the psychological health of astronauts far from home.
Okay, so *maybe* this doesn’t happen every week, but last Friday we watched a commercial resupply mission head to the International Space Station. Around 4:45 A.M., we unfolded our lawn chairs on the causeway, directly facing Space Launch Complex 40. At 5:42 A.M., the first glimmer of yellow light flashed on the horizon, and within minutes the only trace of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was a spectacular multi-colored vapor trail hovering above the horizon. The once-in-a-lifetime experience was a true testament to how lucky we are to be law interns in the heart of space research and exploration.
In March of 2015, NASA scientists and researchers of every variety ascended in droves upon the lobby of Hyatt Place, the hotel I was employed with, for the annual Lunar Planetary Science Conference. Imagine staying up in 2012 to watch the Curiosity Mars Rover landing and then just three years later bartending for a table full of the folks who made it possible. Picture yourself struggling to remain professional while a marine biologist and a physicist casually chat about fishing on Europa while you shakily serve them. To be clear, the entire time I was internally combusting with happiness. That’s where my NASA story began.
This journey has been the wildest ride of my life. In 2013, I came out of high school in Houston, Texas, as a certified Emergency Medical Technician – Basic (EMT-B) with sights set towards medical school and the field of space medicine. To keep costs low, I attended a local community college and planned to transfer out as a Biology major after getting my basic courses knocked out. Everything was in motion, and at the time I thought I had my career all mapped out.
In March 2014, everything changed when my father was shot and killed at his place of work. Overnight, my map was erased. I decided medicine was too costly and too time consuming of an endeavor to put my family through. My passions needed to take the backseat. I wanted to provide. I changed my degree plan from Biology to Accounting and kept my head down.
Then, in March 2015 I met Sheri Klug Boonstra, now a dear friend, who at the time was representing Arizona State University and NASA. She took the time to ask about the shine in my eyes when something about science perked my ears up. Late that night, when the bar was closing down, we spoke about the magic of space, the purity of pursuing the truths of the cosmos, and well, just how dang cool the human capacity to explore really is. She left me with a NASA sticker that still sits on my laptop today.
When I got to the University of Texas at Austin, that sticker stared me down into delaying my graduation and diving back into biology just one year out from graduation.
In my final semester of college I applied for a NASA internship with the International Space Station Program Science Office. My GPA wasn’t the best—but my passion and drive were unmatched. One morning my phone rang for an interview, and four days later I ran out in the middle of my Geology lecture—literally in the middle of campus—shouting that I just got my dream job. When I got here that first day, I sat in my car silently with my eyes wet like a very tiny chef was chopping onions underneath them. Six months later and that tiny chef and his onions are still there every time I see the flags at Johnson Space Center. That sticker Sheri gave me years ago now has 10 different NASA stickers to keep it company. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with people who have literally left this world, write as a credited author about the economics of space, and have had the honor of serving my country’s finest minds and ideals. The most amazing part of my time here has been reaching out to the public and organizing my own NASA outreach events. Taking the time to listen to the passions of our next generations and exciting students is something that I firmly believe is a responsibility we all carry. Thankfully, NASA continues to support and fortify that endeavor.
It’s not about what gets you through the day. Surveying the sky above, the vast cloak of twinkles wrapped around our world, all I can really think is that there’s nowhere I’d rather be. Looking at that blanket of stars is what it’s taken for me to understand that life isn’t about getting through the day – it’s about finding what keeps you awake at night. For me, that’s NASA.
By Shoyeb “Sunny” Panjwani, NASA JSC Summer 2018 Intern
For my entire childhood, I was a good math and science student, but thought it was boring and wanted to be a piano teacher. When my eighth grade science teacher, Mrs. Kelly, announced that she was starting a team to compete in the Team America Rocketry Challenge, I had no interest and did not attend the first meeting. The next day, she pulled me aside and said that the team needed more members and since I was an exceptional science student, I had been drafted. I went to my first meeting simply so that I wouldn’t disappoint her, fully expecting to hate it. To my surprise, I was hooked. Building the rockets didn’t seem like my tedious math and science classes, it was fun. We didn’t place in the competition, but her insistence on my participation introduced me to engineering and how enjoyable it could be.
The summer after the competition, I was accepted into a pre-college music festival. By the end of the program, my musical dreams had been shattered. The incredible amount of work needed to become a classical pianist ruined the music for me. I needed something else to focus on, so I signed up for my high school’s rocket team, hearing Mrs. Kelly in my head telling me I could do it. We were significantly better than my middle school’s team, and at the end of my freshman year, we won a spot in NASA’s Student Launch Projects. I spent my entire sophomore year designing the payload experiment and container, with the experience culminating in an amazing trip to Marshall Space Flight Center. Still, I did not see a career for myself in engineering. NASA is far from my home in New York and I still didn’t understand the full scope of STEM.
After hearing about my experience, I was approached by my physics teacher, Mr. Paino, about joining his fledgling research program. He wanted me and another team member to write a scientific report about our rocket to submit to the Siemens Science Competition. I agreed, and he dedicated massive amounts of time and energy to make sure I succeeded in the program, as well as pushing me to take his AP Physics class. His dedication to me, even when I didn’t always appreciate it or like him, helped me see that I was capable of pursuing engineering. He recommended Northeastern University to me, thinking that I would enjoy the co-op program, which builds time into the curriculum for three six-month internship opportunities. I was accepted, and am currently in my third year majoring in computer engineering.
Ever since participating in the Student Launch Project, I had been interested in working at NASA. After completing my first co-op at a small medical device company, I began seriously researching NASA for my second co-op. I was offered a position in the Office of Education at Stennis Space Center. This experience has solidified my choice of computer engineering as the field I want to go into, as well as giving me experience in both the aerospace and STEM education fields. When I return to Boston, I plan to continue my aerospace work at MIT Lincoln Labs, and my STEM education efforts through outreach to middle schoolers.