Failure to Future: An Intern’s Journey to Success

Erica Kriner as a child, posing in front of an abstract art mural that consists of NASA, Apollo, and other space-related items.
Erica Kriner as a child, posing in front of an abstract art mural that consists of NASA, Apollo, and other space-related items.

“Failure is not an option.” Erica Kriner thought that this quote was a motto that she could live by. She then learned that the quote is a little misleading. “Failure is inevitable; what defines your character is what you do after it happens,” Kriner said. 

NASA Fellowship 

Erica Kriner recently graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography with minors in Sustainability and Anthropology. She is also a former Audio Storytelling NASA intern with a Fellowship from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Her primary duty as an intern was to help with scripting and producing NASA’s Curious Universe which is a podcast where she told stories about science and the people behind it at NASA. 

NASA Fellowships are competitive awards to support independently conceived or designed research, or senior design projects by highly qualified faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students, in disciplines needed to help advance NASA’s missions. This gives them the opportunity to directly contribute to advancements in STEM-related areas of study. The Fellowship opportunities are focused on innovation and generating measurable research results that contribute to NASA’s current and future science and technology goals. 

DEVELOP Program 

Kriner was also a part of NASA’s DEVELOP Program which conducts feasibility studies that bridge the gap between Earth science information and society. These projects help both participants and partners learn more about using geospatial information. Three times a year, participants apply through a competitive application process. Those selected conduct 10-week research projects in interdisciplinary teams of 4-5 people. They work closely with DEVELOP science advisors and mentors to apply Earth observations address to real-world problems. Through this process, participants build both research and science communication skills. These skills and project experience help set them up for success in the workforce. 

In Defeat, I am Defiant. 

It’s difficult for Kriner to put into words what it means not just to have this internship but even just to be at NASA. She feels like every decision she has made for her future has not just been for herself. 

Those decisions have been for her family: her mother, who raised her young and single, and who had to drop out of college and donate plasma every week just to pay the bills; her grandparents, who opened their home to them and who supported Erica unconditionally, even after she had to come home from college and was at her lowest point. “I’m not just building my legacy here; I’m also continuing their legacies of tenacity, compassion, and resilience. Everything I do is because of them and for them.” Kriner said. 

From the vantage point of hindsight, I can say with certainty that the moments that felt like failure were the moments that made this path possible. I wouldn’t be at NASA if it weren’t for those initial failures.” 

Succeed with NASA like Erica has and apply to be an intern at our website today! Also, feel free to check out Margarita Bassil, a NASA intern who also interpreted her mistakes as lessons to become successful at NASA. 

Nonstop Aerospace Adventure- Joseph Birtman

A former NASA intern from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida standing in front of the Space Launch System Rocket (SLS) for the Artemis I missions.
A former NASA intern from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida standing in front of the Space Launch System Rocket (SLS) for the Artemis I missions.

Every day we continue to push the boundaries of our knowledge. Joseph Birtman was always interested in space and fascinated with a sky full of stars ever since he was 12 years old. He finally achieved his dream as he worked hard to contribute to one of the most inspiring parts of humanity. 

Moon Simulation Tool 

“I had an interesting background and mix of skills, and a deep enthusiasm for space,” Birtman said.  

Joseph Birtman is currently a senior at the University of California, Berkley, where he is double majoring in Computer Science and Economics. He is also a former NASA intern from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and worked in the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) lab. 

NASA will be landing on the Moon in the coming years. There, they need numerous unmanned vehicles and systems to assist the astronauts, perform science experiments and ultimately work toward the journey to Mars. 

Birtman worked on a simulation tool of the Moon called the Lunar Uncrewed Explorer Tool (LUnExT is an acronym made by Birtman and another intern for this simulation tool). This tool is used to plan independent missions and operations. He implemented into the simulation how much dust is kicked up during a landing, also known as a Plume Surface Interaction (PSI). PSI is essential for planning how close a rocket could land to ground equipment or determining how far a camera could be to document the landing. 

With the features mentioned and numerous others, this allows NASA scientists to quickly and easily create moon mission plans which are extremely important in the Age of Artemis. 

Diversity is Key 

Birtman resonated with NASA’s core values, especially “Diversity.” Diversity is the key factor that leads to world-class innovations and discoveries. “The only way to create amazing things is through people with various backgrounds and viewpoints,” Birtman said. 

His experience at NASA was unlike any other and he was grateful that he worked hard to get to where he is today. He believed that if you are even slightly interested in space or NASA missions, then you should apply. 

Don’t worry if your background isn’t STEM! NASA provides multiple roles for different majors and skill sets such as business, human resources, public relations, and even counterintelligence! The lack of the “traditional” path may make your application even stronger,” Birtman stated. 

Find out if we have the right role for you on our website. Additionally, feel free to check out Samuel Mohler and read about how he learned from pure passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity about space, science, and NASA missions just like Joseph! 

 

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. 

High School NASA Intern Works with Artificial Intelligence.

Drina Shah standing in front of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Drina Shah standing in front of the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Reach for the stars because you might just become one! Drina Shah has a fascination with space exploration and engineering. When high school came around, Shah got the opportunity to work on NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative Project. Out of six schools across the nation, she was one out of eight students from her school to become a finalist.

With her interest in space exploration and engineering, and now her accomplishment from high school, she sought out an internship with NASA whose values align greatly with hers.

Artificial Intelligence Project

Currently, Shah is a Senior at Mooresville High School in North Carolina and a former NASA virtual intern at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The project that Shah worked on during her internship was an Artificial Intelligence based science translator for the spread of hydrological information.

Dreams Do Come True

NASA’s mission of innovating for the benefit of humanity and inspiring the world through discovery, and its core values of safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion inspired Shah to work for NASA. This internship meant the world to her and ended up being the very first job that she has ever had.

“It really was a dream come true opportunity for me and I’m sure it will help propel my career and my interest in space, engineering, and artificial intelligence,” Shah said.

If you are looking for a dream opportunity, check out our website for more information. You can also feel free to check out other fascinating stories such as Nicholas Houghton, who has a dream of becoming an astronaut and became an intern with an exciting position.

Grace Pham/ NASA Johnson Space Center

NASA Intern Studies the Stars

Anna Taylor standing next to a poster called “The Effect of Wind Speed and Roche Lobe Geometrics on the Wind Dynamics of Vela X-1" from NC State University.

Anna Taylor standing next to a poster called “The Effect of Wind Speed and Roche Lobe Geometrics on the Wind Dynamics of Vela X-1″ from NC State University.Anna Taylor, a former NASA intern from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, wanted to know as much as she could about the sky full of stars she saw every night. In the 9th grade, Taylor competed in her first Science Olympiad, a premier team STEM competition, and realized that physics and astronomy was her ultimate passion.

The Stars are Aligning

“I believe in NASA’s initiative, and I want to contribute to our understanding of the universe,” Taylor said.

Currently, Anna Taylor is a senior at North Carolina State University where she is majoring in Physics and double minoring in Mathematics and Computer Science.

During her internship, she worked on a project where she modeled photospheres and chromospheres. A photosphere is a star’s outer shell where the light is radiating while a chromosphere is a red and gaseous layer above the photosphere.

She worked with the Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Lab which studies the formation and evolution of stars and planetary systems using advanced telescopes and theoretical techniques.

By identifying statistical trends linking stars to emissions, she would determine factors for the stars in the samples that she is given. Given this project, she would further NASA’s mission by researching these stars and help everyone understand how the universe is made, what else is out there, and how we all fit in.

Internship Takeaway

Taylor is grateful to take part in the astrophysics and astronomy field and is proud to be a part of the young female representation in such a male-dominated area

“This internship not only means I get to do research in coding and astrophysics which are my passions but also gives me an opportunity to meet so many smart and interesting people and learn all about what they do at NASA,” Taylor said.

Take the next step in becoming a NASA intern like Anna and learn more about the opportunities NASA has. Additionally, feel free to find out more about other NASA interns, such as Shalya Wilhelm’s experience of learning how to create oxygen on the moon for astronauts using lunar soil!

Grace Pham/ NASA Johnson Space Center

­­­­­­­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

 

Get Involved with NASA Days

 

‘NASA Days is one of the coolest events I’ve seen that’s open to the general public,’ Marco Guidino, an intern at NASA, said. ‘They give students the opportunity to interact with scientists, discuss resumes, and network.’ NASA is supporting the dreams of students from traditionally underrepresented and underserved communities to enter careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (NASA HQ).
‘NASA Days is one of the coolest events I’ve seen that’s open to the general public,’ Marco Guidino, an intern at NASA, said. ‘They give students the opportunity to interact with scientists, discuss resumes, and network.’ NASA is supporting the dreams of students from traditionally underrepresented and underserved communities to enter careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (NASA HQ).

NASA Days, a Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) activity, was created to increase awareness and opportunity among students at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The program is designed to give an overview of NASA’s OSTEM internship program, NASA Pathways Intern Employment Program (IEP), and NASA Fellows activities. 

What is NASA Days?

The activity consists of four sessions. The sessions cover steps detailing the Gateway and OSTEM internship application process, an overview of NASA organizations from their subject matter experts, interview skills, resume reviews, interview strategies, best practices, and collaboration efforts among researchers, professors, and scientists. 

During Marco Guidino’s NASA internship, he wanted to pass on knowledge and help students get connected, so he decided to help run a joint NASA Days event featuring Kennedy Space Center, Langley Research Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center. 

NASA Days is one of the coolest events I’ve seen that’s open to the general public,” Guidino says. “They give students the opportunity to interact with scientists, discuss resumes, and network.” 

Retired NASA Employee Joann Morgan briefing students at Montana State University for NASA Days. Jose Nunez briefing students at Morehouse School of Medicine during NASA Days (NASA/Priscilla Moore).
Retired NASA Employee Joann Morgan briefing students at Montana State University for NASA Days. Jose Nunez briefing students at Morehouse School of Medicine during NASA Days (NASA/Priscilla Moore).

One thing Guidino has learned from his attendance at NASA Days events is to put yourself out there and ask specific questions for the role you are interested in. 

Networking

During the networking mixer portion of the event, NASA managers present an overview of their divisions to attendees. Following this presentation, students separate into small groups where managers rotate answering questions and engaging in conversation with the students.  

Resume Review

In the resume review session, managers divide students for interviews dependent on the project they would be best suited for or for a general interview. In this process, several students are usually selected or referred for internship opportunities. 

If attending a NASA Days event is something you are interested in, NASA Days will be supporting the in-person and virtual career fair at The Annual National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Week Conference 

Additionally, Texas Southern University in Houston will be hosting the NASA Days and NASA HBCU Tech Infusion Road Tour which will also be a hybrid event. 

Want to intern with NASA? Check out our website for details on available opportunities. 

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