Intern Hopes to Research the Neurological Health of Astronauts During Missions

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

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

Curiosity

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

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

The Study

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

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

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

Goals

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

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

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

Claire A. O’Shea / NASA Johnson Space Center

From Star Ceiling Stickers to Mission Design- Lauren Daniels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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