NASA Intern to Students: Explore, Discover, and Apply!

Credits: Marvin Jones.

My name is Marvin Q. Jones, Jr. I am a PhD student majoring in astrophysics at the Indiana University Bloomington. I am currently interning at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the title of my intern project is “Pulsed Fission Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion System.”

Name: Marvin Q. Jones, Jr.
Degree: Astrophysics, PhD student
Institution: Indiana University Bloomington
NASA Center: Marshall Space Flight Center
Project Title: Pulsed Fission Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion System

About my project:
PuFF aims to create a propulsion system that will take exploration to new levels with goals of missions to Mars, Alpha Centauri, and other deep space exploration. The PuFF concept makes use of mathematical and physics models in COMSOL to simulate feasibility and efficiency of various components such as the pusher plate nozzle and electromagnetic coil gun. Physically, the system will take in lower energy input, which will lead to a smaller, less expensive (hybrid) propulsion system. Lower energy input will translate into smaller capacitor banks and a smaller overall propulsion system. A smaller system would have far reaching applications toward other projects with NASA.

My journey to NASA and advice to students:
I have wanted to work for NASA since the 5th grade when my teacher, Mr. John Evans who currently works for NASA, taught my class to build a Mars terrain, and use LEGOs to build and program our own rovers. My internship strengthened my desire to be a computational astrophysicist for NASA and apply to become an Astronaut. Exploring space vehicle design, physics models, numerical simulation, and applications to space exploration was an experience I will treasure when I hope to someday see Earth from space. This internship helped me realize that my background, my village, and training fully prepared me to do the work.

Growing up in Newport News, VA, and living in Newsome Park, VA, which was where Dorothy Vaughn lived for a period of her life feels like a deeper connection to those formerly Hidden Figures who came before me. North Carolina A&T State University, my undergraduate institution, always taught me to explore, discover, and become anything I thought possible. North Carolina A&T didn’t teach me what to think but how to think, which for any intern is key. Thinking about problems and asking good questions is an artform that every intern at NASA needs in their toolkit.

Credits: Marvin Jones.

I think any student with a curious mind should give the internship program a try. No question I asked was too small or too great, experimentation with ideas was highly encouraged, the ability to contribute and be heard was appreciated, and the skills I gained are unfathomable. I would advise any applicant to assess their current skills and the skills they desire–speak on both as they apply. It is about being teachable just as much as it is about what you contribute. As I stare at the canvas of my future, NASA has given me new skills to curate a masterpiece. To students: explore, discover, and apply!

From immigrant to working on NASA’s Computational Fluid Dynamics codes

By Ramona Barajas-Villar

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

At NASA we celebrate Women’s History Month by recognizing some of our interns and their contributions to NASA.  Meet Wendy Yang. Wendy is an intern at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center and a student at the University of California, Berkeley where she is majoring in Mechanical Engineering. 

Meet Wendy Yang, an intern at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center.
Credits: Wendy Yang.

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

My journey started over a decade ago, when I found out about NASA by flipping through TV channels and came upon NASA TV. I was a new immigrant to the US who didn’t understand or speak English at the time, but the space imagery on screen fascinated me to this day. I learned more about what NASA does in middle school as part of the NASA Explorer School program, and I was encouraged to study math and science in order to pursuit a career in the field by my teachers and a current NASA employee. This resulted in me pursuing a mechanical engineering major at my current university. However, upon entering college, I had doubts about my abilities and did not apply for an internship despite being eligible after naturalization. It wasn’t until my junior year when my aerodynamics professor recommended to me that I should apply for an internship to further my development that I finally decided to apply for a NASA internship.

What is your role on your current project?

I write codes that performs CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulation on airfoils.

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

My project focuses on aeronautics, one of the key missions of NASA since its NACA days. My project seeks to reach greater heights of what is possible in aircraft designs by exploring fundamental aerodynamic theories and develop cutting edge aeronautics technology.

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

I am staying connected via PAXC (Promoting Agency Cross-Center Connections), a student organization within NASA that connects interns and students across all of NASA.

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

I am currently a part of Space Technology and Rocketry, the competitive experimental rocketry team at UC Berkeley. The team competed in rocketry competitions like the NASA Student Launch competition and other intercollegiate rocketry competition. My time on the team taught me project management, cross team technical communication, and many technical skills related to rocketry. Many of my teammates went on to a career in aerospace. I also did a year of service under a student oriented AmeriCorps program, where I worked with liked minded students from my university and others to help members of our community.

How do you feel interning during #CountdownToMars?!

I am extremely excited about the landing! My project is related to an effort to launch aircrafts on Mars, so I am very excited to see how Ingenuity will perform on Mars. If Ingenuity is successful, it will validate many aerodynamics theories and open up more possibilities within the field.

Student uses mathematics skills to contribute to NASA’s missions

By Ramona Barajas-Villar

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

At NASA we celebrate Women’s History Month by recognizing some of our interns and their contributions to NASA.  Meet Nazifa Taha. Nazifa is an intern at NASA Headquarters and a senior at The City College of New York where she studies Applied Mathematics. 

Meet Nazifa Taha, an intern at NASA's Headquarters.
Credits: Nazifa Taha.

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

I recall that even 3 years ago, I did not know what I wanted to pursue. I was quite lost in what I wanted to become. Finally, after a lot of frustrating college semesters, I found my true passion in Mathematics. I want to see the world and understand our universe through the lens of Mathematics. With such interests in understanding our planet and what is beyond us, I took a deep dive into watching documentaries on nature, animals, and space. They helped me become more aware of how everything around me is in harmony with nature. In the summer of 2020, I asked myself “ What can be my platform to explore Earth and beyond?” The answer was right there…NASA! So, I started digging into NASA’s missions and the work that the agency does. They truly resonated with my passion. Ever since then, it became my goal to be a NASA intern. I applied for a NASA internship and NASA L’SPACE Academy for Fall 2020.I did not get an offer for a NASA internship in Fall 2020, however, I received an offer from NASA L’SPACE Academy. As a result, a part of me was disappointed but a part of me was incredibly excited as well. During my role as a student at NASA L’SPACE Academy in Fall 2020, I met a lot of people from NASA who are very passionate and driven. I worked with my fellow teammates who taught me a lot of things and gave me a profound experience on team work. The biggest lessons I learnt from this Academy were to be bold about my passion, to never give up and the values of teamwork. I took those lessons into account and applied to a NASA internship for Spring 2021. In December 2020, I can still vividly recall the moment when I read an email in my inbox which stated that I was accepted into a NASA internship project. It was a surreal moment. Even to this day, there are times when I cannot believe that I have accomplished my goal. I am deeply grateful and humbled to be a NASA intern. This experience inspires me every day in continuing to be a part of NASA and explore planet Earth and beyond. Finally, to all the people who are chasing their dreams, I would like to state “If you really want something, you’re going to have to work hard, you’ll have to take advantage of every opportunity but don’t give up” – a quote from my role model, Dr. Jane Goodall. 

What is your role on your current project?

My task in the current project is to build a standardized analysis package with my co-intern and mentors by implementing data analysis and data visualizations. The purpose of this package is to help Science Mission Directorate staff track their program statistics.

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

My project ties into one of NASA’s core values, “inclusion”. The end product will help understand the importance of inclusion of all genders in the scientific community.

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

Two student organizations that helped me develop in my STEM journey are Stanford University’s “Code in Place” Program and NASA Lucy Student Pipeline Accelerator and Competency Enabler Academy. I learned the fundamentals of programming in Python from professors at Stanford University and by collaborating with students from all over the world. As a student at NASA L’SPACE Academy, I learnt the principles of science, research, engineering and writing that go behind building a NASA mission. I also learnt the importance of teamwork.

How do you feel interning during #CountdownToMars?!

I feel over the moon to be interning at NASA during #CountdownToMars. It isn’t every semester that we send a rover to Mars and to be a part of NASA during this time is a rare privilege. This is an experience of a lifetime. I am so excited to watch the Mars Perseverance landing on February 18 as a NASA intern. I am happy that many years from now, I can tell the younger generation, “ I was a NASA intern during the count down to Mars!!”

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

It is very critical that women are supported in STEM because inclusion is important to be innovative and do great things together. The more minds we bring together, the more success we will all achieve together. We are all citizens of this planet and it is together that we can tackle challenges, discover new things and see prosperity. I want women to believe in themselves because I want them to see their potential to be great and that they too can reach for the stars.

From studying engineering to working on rovers that will land on other planets

By Ramona Barajas-Villar

Women’s History Month: Recognizing some of our intern leaders
At NASA we celebrate Women’s History Month by recognizing some of our interns and their contributions to NASA.  Karen Mae Baldonado. Karen is an intern at NASA’s Langley Research Center and a senior at the City College of New York where she studies Mechanical Engineering. 

Meet Karen Mae Baldonado, an intern at NASA's Langley Research Center.
Credits: Karen Mae Baldonado.

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

Throughout my academic career, I wasn’t sure what sector I wanted to go into after college. I was always interested in space as a kid, but as I got older it seemed like having a career in space was out of reach. I didn’t know any women in the space sector, let alone any women in engineering careers. As I was looking for internships in my senior year of Mechanical Engineering, with no prior internship or even job experience, I decided to take a chance and apply to NASA, not expecting anything but knowing I tried. I was surprised to end up with offers to two different NASA internships! I work everyday in school and in my NASA internship to make sure the work I am doing is the best possible work I can do, for NASA and the communities I represent- women in STEM, my school the City College of New York, and women of color. More than anything I want more women in STEM and more women in NASA. I want to make sure by excelling in my engineering major and interning at NASA, that not only do I create a path for younger women to follow, but that there will be younger women to follow. I want more women in STEM to see their worth and go after what they really want, like I did.

What is your role on your current project?

I study Entry, Descent, and Landing on different planetary bodies for entry vehicles, focusing on a rover that uses tensegrity. This rover is designed by my mentor and team. For EDL, I conduct different simulations to examine the system analyses of the rover. My work focuses especially on Titan and Mars.

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

My work for this project is able to determine different system modules for Entry, Descent, and Landing on any planetary body. It can be applied to the Moon or Mars. For my project, one of the planets I focus especially on is Mars. Furthermore, a rover that uses tensegrity is ideal for entering planetary bodies with higher risks, such as a rougher surface or atmospheric conditions that aren’t ideal, as the design of the rover allows any way of landing to be an optimal position. The rover is able to adjust itself to any surface, able to go over big craters for example, and thus is a possible rover for future missions to further planetary bodies or the Moon and Mars. 

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

I joined PAXC on Discord and Teams and enjoy learning about others through the discussions on Discord. I also join the Networking sessions hosted by Langley Research Center’s Intern Coordinators.

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

The Society of Women Engineers in my school City College of New York played a big role in my STEM journey. Their meetings contain a lot of valuable lessons and information. Their greatest contribution to my STEM journey is their meetings where they brought people who have worked or work with NASA. I’ve learned from past NASA interns and current NASA employees. Hearing about their stories is what pushed me to apply to NASA in the first place. Being around other women engineers with big aspirations also greatly contributed to my STEM journey. My school’s American Society of Mechanical Engineering club also greatly helped me develop professionally in my STEM journey. ASME has taught me not only about Solidworks and Computational Fluid Dynamics lessons that I haven’t learned in class, but also the “how-to’s” of internships, interviews, and jobs. Their lessons were especially helpful for my NASA applications and interview!

How do you feel interning during #CountdownToMars?!

Interning during the #CountdownToMars has brought an experience I couldn’t get elsewhere. I’m not just someone who happens to be alive during this event, but I’m someone who actually gets to hear from the people who worked on Perseverance and NASA directly. NASA has held events for their interns to learn about the work put into Perseverance. I’m getting a chance I couldn’t get elsewhere or at any other time and I’m extremely grateful for that!

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

At NASA, I feel like I belong regardless of my identity. I know I’m here because of what I have achieved and because of my passion to work at NASA. The work I am doing is important and is not just busywork. At NASA, I’m learning so much from my project but also by asking questions, never feeling scared to show I don’t know something. One of my greatest hopes is that my work here as an intern will inspire younger women to go towards a career in STEM.

NASA Opens the Door for Multiple Projects

Meet Dayana Contreras, an AFRC intern for fall 2019 and spring 2020. Photo credit: NASA AFRC/ Lauren Hughes and Ken Ulbrich.

Hello world, my name is Dayana Contreras and I’m an AFRC intern. I started my first internship in the fall 2019. I was very surprised when I got the offer, I couldn’t believe it; I didn’t even drop my fall classes until the day after orientation. I kept thinking I would get to the gate and they were going to tell me it was all a big mistake. My dream of working for NASA had finally come true. Having the privilege to be able to come in the center and see the amazing things they did was a reward itself. I felt so small walking past all the aircraft, SOFIA is one of the most amazing airplanes I have ever witnessed.

Dayana works on the PRADTL-3c. Photo credit: NASA AFRC/ Lauren Hughes and Ken Ulbrich.

My first project was Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Lower Drag (PRADTL-3c). I helped with the mass property testing, such as center of gravity and moment of inertia. I was also in charge of data collection and analysis using the mathematical models I created. I got the opportunity to do a lot of hands on testing. This was a great internship, and I got to bond with my teammates as well as my mentor, Oscar Murillo. I felt I got to know many people around the center and got to learn the dynamics as well. This center has a great small-town feel – everyone smiles and says hi to you and they are so willing to help and want to see you succeed, it is so welcoming.

My second internship was in the spring 2020. My project was working with National Aeronautics and Space Administration Design and Analysis of Rotorcraft (NDARC). Being the first intern assigned to this project gave me an insight on what this center is about – research. I learned to be patient and to work alone. It really gave the phrase slowly but surely a true meaning. I was very lucky to have had a great mentor, Jason Lechniak, by my side helping me get through the issues I encountered. I learned so much from him I am very grateful for the opportunity and trust he placed in me.

Dayana poses next to the PRADTL-3c wing. Photo credit: NASA AFRC/ Lauren Hughes and Ken Ulbrich.

My advice for future interns is to stay focused but have fun at the same time. Enjoy the internship and everything the center has to offer. Take classes, go to meetings and lunch and learn sessions. Attend talks and events. Get to know people; a smile can lead to a conversation. This center has so many things to offer and this is the opportunity of a lifetime, make the best of it! Remember you are not expected to know everything, but you are expected to do your best to try to figure out a solution to your problem.

Living the Dream at NASA

By Vanessa Rincon
International Education Week 2019 Edition

Meet Ty-Chris Beasley who is a college senior studying accounting at Langston University in Langston, OK.

As a kid growing up in the small town of Muskogee, Okla., I believed there were only two career options at NASA: be an astronaut or a rocket scientist. Neither of which an Okie from Muskogee would fit that mold, so I thought. But I was mistaken. Because here I am, a NASA intern and soon to be a full time employee.

NASA has allowed me to have fantastic mentors, support the future Artemis – to the moon — mission, and given me the opportunity to network with peers from all walks of life. Most importantly, NASA has given me the privilege to engage the community and inspire minority youth about STEM. I truly felt as if I was living the dream.

I am a recent graduate of Langston University, a Historically Black College in Oklahoma with bachelors in accounting and an associate’s in financial planning. Because of Langston University’s partnership with NASA, I made history in 2017 being the first student from Langston School of Business to receive an internship from NASA. During my tenure at Johnson Space Center in Houston, I have been able to complete five internship tours and work on a multitude of different projects. My projects have included everything from working with procurement (buying stuff) to now public engagement (taking the message to the community).

During my first internship, I worked in JSC’s Gilruth fitness center as a business management intern. For my second, I worked in the Chief Information Office (CIO) as the first ever business integrator helping support the CIO and Chief Financial Office. On my third, I worked in the Office of STEM Engagement working with the Houston Independent School District (HISD) working with underrepresented students and cultivating a stronger relationship between NASA and HISD. For my fourth, I had the honor to help coordinate special events for the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing. I got to engage with millions of people from all over the world as I helped with our special events, promotions and, also, JSC internal celebrations. I was able to network with every organization and many public figures such as NASA legend Apollo 11 flight director Gene Kranz, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee and many others.

JSC intern Ty-Chris meets former NASA Flight Director Gene Kratz.

Presently, I’m an External Relations Office (ERO) intern, still in the office of STEM Engagement, continuing working with HISD to maintain and sustain the partnership our team built.  The partnership focuses on innovative educational methods and uses best practices that promote the advancement of knowledge and skills toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers, with a goal to help HISD increase the academic achievement rates in STEM. Our hope is to increase industry, university, and community partnerships which will support and enhance the aerospace themes in HISD.

I never imagined myself working in a STEM career field, but I understand the importance and need for STEM engagement, especially with students in underserved communities. I am a firm believer that what happens outside the gates of NASA reflects what goes on inside NASA. By engaging with the public, we can show people all the amazing things we have accomplished at NASA and will continue to do now and in the future — like returning to the Moon in 2024.

Ty-Chris is currently interning in JSC’s External Relations Office and Office of STEM Engagement.

My mission at HISD was to show students, especially students of color, that it’s possible to work at NASA and aerospace industries by offering them experiences and opportunities. One of the challenges I faced was finding different ways to relate STEM that would resonate with the students in terms they could understand. I met this challenge through multiple STEM days, including a virtual reality show of the International Space Station and by including other NASA interns, subject matter experts, and former astronauts.

Even though I’m not a rocket scientist or an astronaut, NASA has allowed an Okie from Muskogee to engage, connect, and inspire youth and to gain aerospace experience by helping students find passion in STEM.  I want future generations to know no matter what your background you have the ability to do amazing work for one of the most exciting organizations…NASA.

For me “living the dream” is not working at NASA, but helping improve the world one student at a time.

Are you interested in STEM engagement? Consider applying to a NASA internship! You can find Summer 2020 intern projects at intern.nasa.gov. The Summer 2020 application deadline is March 8, 2020. Start your intern journey today! #NASAinterns

One giant leap from football to NASA

By Vanessa Rincon
International Education Week 2019 Edition

Meet Callan Cranenburgh who is a master’s student majoring in aerospace engineering at the University of Sydney, Australia.

I have made many memories throughout my time as an intern at NASA, and these will stick with me forever. These have mainly come through the new friendships that I have developed here at NASA Ames. My mentor is truly my biggest inspiration at NASA. His adherence to continue working through difficulties is a brilliant quality, and although he is often inundated in work, he never even considered not helping me in any moment I had a question or required his assistance with something. This has inspired me to be accommodating to others and under no circumstances should I not have time to aid others in need.

At the 2014 WAFL Grand Final, Callan won a colts premiership with Swan Districts Football Club. Credit: Groc Photography.

Aspiring to become a professional Australian football player, I dedicated my life to performing the sport at the highest level I possibly could in Perth, Australia. I suffered an injury in 2016 whilst playing that fractured my skull and brought me a serious concussion, changing the way I thought about how I wanted to live my life. At this point, I enrolled in a Masters of Professional Aerospace Engineering in Sydney, Australia, and left my family and athletic aspirations.

Callan is an intern at Ames Research Center’s Fluid Mechanics Laboratory.

Currently, my role on my project is to conduct an analysis on the performance of a newly developed high-speed CMOS camera sensor purposed for Pressure-Sensitive Paint applications, otherwise known as an optical wind tunnel technique through which an image is captured and can be processed to harness the pressure distribution over the entire surface of the aircraft or spacecraft model captured by the frame. I test this camera in pressure calibration cells to identify its light-capturing capabilities at different partial pressures of oxygen. I also am involved in a wind tunnel test on the Common Research Model and structural tests on the Germanium windows in the Unitary wind tunnel that are used for infrared wave transfer.

Callan is an intern through NASA’s International Internship (I^2) Program, where Australia’s Victorian Space Science Education Center (VSSEC) is a current partner.

This internship has truly changed my life, and it has taught me that there is no impossible. It showed me that if you dedicate yourself to something, you can achieve the world, and that nothing is out of reach. Always believe in yourself and the others around you, and the rest will fall into place. The urge of wanting to know how things worked led me to become an engineer, which is something that I did not see myself as doing throughout the majority of my life while I was focused on athletic aspirations, but I find no regret whatsoever in what I have chosen to do, and am incredibly enthusiastic to see what the future holds for myself with NASA.  My advice to future interns is to Embrace the opportunity and work diligently. The privilege of working with experts at NASA is one that should not be taken for granted. Talk to everyone, ask questions and ultimately immerse yourself in the NASA family. The internship program will be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime so enjoy the journey and I hope you gain as much from it as I did.

Are you an international student? Consider learning more about the NASA International Internship program at https://www.nasa.gov/stem/international-internships-for-students.html. Visit intern.nasa.gov to learn more about other NASA internship programs. Start your intern journey today! #NASAinterns #InternationalEducationWeek

From Drawing To Telling the Stories of Space

From a very young age, Tamsyn has enjoyed drawing the solar system.

I’ve always dreamed of becoming an astronaut. As a kid, I loved to make crayon drawings of the solar system. My pictures always had to be accurate: I never forgot the asteroid belt, Uranus’ tilted rings, and Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. I loved the thought of a huge, mysterious universe — to be honest, I still do.

But if I’m being really honest, the process of becoming a bona fide space cadet isn’t a journey that I was ever prepared for or even willing to take. I’m very nearsighted. I have a largely unacknowledged fear of heights. I don’t want to major in engineering, hard science, or math. I also can’t do a pull-up.

I still fantasize, though, about seeing spaceship Earth hanging alone against a backdrop of a darkness punctured delicately by stars. I wonder about what it would be like to let Martian dust slip through the fingers of my spacesuit glove. I think about leaving my footprints on the Moon.

Over a decade after I stopped using crayons, 16-year-old Tamsyn got a position working in the Zukin lab at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY. As part of a high school class, I’d complete a short-term experiment under the supervision of professional scientists and write a brief paper about it. Over the course of a summer, I removed mouse hippocampi and conducted Western blot analyses on those tiny slivers of brain tissue. What I found to be the best part of the entire experience, though, was writing about the cellular mechanisms behind neuronal death as a result of stroke. I wanted to advance the field (if ever so slightly), but more importantly, the public deserved to know the work being done to ultimately benefit humans.

My passion for science is only outdone by my urge to tell people about it. During my crayon solar system era, I used to proudly recite the names of the planets (going in order from closest to farthest from the Sun and defiantly including Pluto even past its demotion) to anyone who would listen. In the first weeks of my junior year of high school, I worked diligently on my neuroscience paper in the hopes that it’d resonate with my classmates. The next summer I worked again at a lab — the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine — but now my job was to write about science full-time for the lab’s website. I was thrilled to reach a much larger audience than my classmates. By my senior year of high school, I knew what I wanted to do.

Tamsyn Brann is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Science, Technology, and Society

I’m a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Science, Technology, and Society. I know that STS as a course of study sounds pretty vague, but I’m using that to my advantage: I can craft my specific focus as a writer by choosing classes where I could practice communicating science in an educational setting. I can tell you about the scientific legacy of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection — if you genuinely want to hear about the potential Lamarckism of epigenetics and whether genes really are “selfish.” I could talk for hours about detecting biosignatures on exoplanets and what to do once we’ve found them. At school and outside, my encounters with science taught me intellectual fearlessness and a desire to question. When science is communicated, society can absorb the information and advance.

I look forward to focusing my future more specifically toward communicating the astronomy I’ve always loved, and at NASA Goddard, I can do exactly that. The opportunity to interview the very people behind cutting-edge space science is an enormous privilege. Writing about the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter brings me to the Moon (where I hope to see humankind walk in my lifetime, even if I can’t). I’ll visit Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids as I research the 2021 Lucy mission. I can soar past the boundaries of the solar system interviewing scientists specializing in exoplanets. Though being an astronaut may not be my calling, science storytelling is.

To learn more about NASA Internships, please visit intern.nasa.gov. Start your journey today! #NASAinterns

From the Farm to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Do you have any fun or special NASA or STEM memories that have contributed to your journey here?
The University of Michigan wrote a short-story article titled “The farm-raised engineer” that described my journey from a small-town family farm to the PhD program at the University of Michigan. Joseph Xu, Senior Multimedia Producer, interviewed me in the lab, at my apartment, at the research greenhouse, and traveled with me to my family farm in order to capture my family history as farmers and how my education has led me to perform research that has come full-circle with trying to provide innovative solutions to modern agriculture. I was also a 2018 National Geographic Chasing Genius Finalist (1 of 15 in nearly 3,000). http://archive.natgeochasinggenius.com/video/1497. Unfortunately, I did not win the competition. While I did not win the competition from the National Geographic Chasing Genius, I learned to not be deterred or give up after a loss. Bringing the ideas with me as I have the opportunity and resources available here at Kennedy Space Center to further pursue the project.

Kenneth sits on top of the 30,000 bushel grain bin on Engeling Farms property [Photo by J. Xu]
What challenges or hardships do you feel you have had to overcome to reach this point?
Coming from a small and rural community I did not have the high school educational opportunities provided to most of my peers at the University of Michigan. My freshman year was spent trying to study, competing with my peers and adjusting to being “far” (6 ½ hour drive) from home. In order to help pay for my schooling, at the start of my sophomore year I began working on the weekends as a handyman around the city of Ann Arbor to help offset rent costs, groceries, and other school supplies.

Kenneth working at the botanical gardens [Photo by J. Xu]
The plant research project mentioned in the National Geographic video was actually a side project of mine that I started in my second year of graduate studies. It was what I had intended on developing for my thesis but it never did received the funding. Therefore my thesis work was on a different project and my spare time was spent on pursuing this research. I would work during the day on my thesis research and then in the evenings, a colleague who was also interested in the project would work with me as we further developed the project. This led to a lot of evenings during the week and weekends spent doing research together with some time-stamped photographs at midnight. Since there was no available funding, my father had given me soybeans from the farm (Engeling Farms) and I had spent my own money on supplies for germination and growth tests with my advisor allowing me to use the non-consumable lab equipment.

Are there any educators who inspired you throughout school or contributed to your pursuit of a NASA internship?
My advisor, Professor John Foster, had worked at NASA – Glenn Research Center before becoming a Professor at the University of Michigan. His excitement with research and teaching and love of the advancement of knowledge throughout NASA had inspired me to look into the opportunities available to me and to see if I would be able to contribute to any of the on-going work.

Kenneth stands in front of the historic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

I am very thankful to have received the opportunity to work with my current mentor, Annie Meier, PhD, and the OSCAR Team in the Applied Chemistry Lab here at Kennedy Space Center.  Dr. Meter and her team focuses on a waste gasification process involving a rig that has been named Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor or OSCAR for short.  My current role in the group is to demonstrate the use of an alternative technology for the same purpose and therefore I am working with a low-temperature plasma torch for waste gasification.  This correlates directly with my graduate degree focus within the field of plasma physics.  I am also collaborating with GIoia Massa, PhD, of the VEGGIE group for the sterilization of seeds via various plasma technologies.

I was excited for the opportunity and experience to work at NASA for the plasma gasification group as well as a possible collaboration to continue working on the seed project for potential applications and use for the International Space Station. One of the most interesting things about my internship is that I have the ability to work at a historic facility as well as seeing its transition into a multi-user spaceport by experiencing launches first-hand. Learning how to use new equipment and analyze the data will be invaluable in years to come for my career. Also, learning the requirements for flight technologies as well as the advanced chemistry and concepts applied has been fascinating.

Kenneth turns on the power supply for the plasma torch in the plasma gasification experiment

How do you feel this internship has helped you develop more professional or personal confidence?
While interning here, I am writing my PhD thesis so my goal is to graduate. Then I wish to pursue plasma applications for environmental remediation and applications in agriculture. My mentor’s group as well as another group I am working with, has provided me with the one of the best foundations for learning basic and advanced concepts and knowledge in order to further pursue advanced applications for plasma technologies.

The internship has helped in a professional way by allowing me to interact with experts in fields different than mine. It has also helped me be able to clearly explain the experiences I have gained in my graduate studies and how I may be able to assist in their projects. My name is Kenneth Engeling and this is my story.

Kenneth walks down the field entrance at his family’s farm in Central Illinois [Photo by J. Xu]
About the Author
Kenneth Engeling is finishing up his 4th year of his PhD studies in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences with a focus in low temperature plasmas. He comes from a small town farming community in which the farm has been in his family for 4 generations spanning nearly 140 years.  Kenneth has traveled from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, which is home to the Wolverines and fantastic food options, and has succeeded in skipping the Michigan winter. Kenneth will be continuing his internship until the end of Summer 2019 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

To learn more about NASA Internships, please visit intern.nasa.gov. Start your journey today! #NASAinterns

Hurricane Maria nor adversity keeps Puerto Rico student from interning at NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Stennis Space Center

Jorge proudly stands by the NASA meatball on his second internship day at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

My name is Jorge Y. Martínez Santiago, I’m from Caguas, Puerto Rico. I study electrical engineering (EE) at the Universidad Del Turabo in Puerto Rico. I decided to study electrical engineering because I wanted to help in the improvement of new systems to help humanity in the way we communicate, electrical systems in medical equipment, security, perhaps in renewable energies or in the development of new technologies, such as transportation, Construction and robotics. For me, a career in electrical engineering can offer you all that. After my first year of study in EE, my father’s cousin, Felix Soto, told me about an internship opportunity at NASA. At first I was excited, but then I thought that because I was from Puerto Rico I would have more problems to qualify because being considered a minority I would not have the same opportunities. Also, I did not have the best GPA, I assumed that only 4.0 GPA students would be considered for opportunities. This perception made me lose confidence in being selected for an interview.

Jorge tours NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

After the first year of having my profile in the application system, I received updates that I was being considered for an interview, but I was never interviewed. Soon after, I forgot about the selection process because I thought that NASA would never select me. However, my parents and my father’s cousin continued to encourage me to apply again in my third year of college. This time, with a better curriculum and some EE experience, I felt more confident. I applied for spring internship opportunities in 2017, but then Hurricane Maria came.

After Hurricane Maria, we lost the roof at the back of the house, electricity and water. Our phones did not work well – there was no signal on the whole island. Nowadays, we are dependent on technology regularly for almost everything so you can only imagine how difficult our days were. Not to mention that there were people without food, and people dying from lack of electricity or sick people that became worse due to the Hurricane Maria. The days were boring and short; after the sun went down, there was not much to do. This affected me greatly. Due to the lack of electricity and internet, I did not see an email from one of the internship positions I applied to; the email was an invitation to interview for an internship, but since I did not have email access, I lost my chance.

When I discovered that I lost my first and what I thought was my only opportunity to have an internship at NASA, I felt frustrated and unmotivated. I thought I would not have another chance to become a NASA intern. Despite being frustrated, I did not lose hope and continued applying to more opportunities. About a month later, I received several offers for interviews and was selected for a summer internship at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in 2018. I discovered that the NASA community is kind and has a diverse work environment. I was glad to have been selected for a NASA internship! I was excited because I aimed to acquire a professional experience and, in addition, provide me with a different perspective of interning and possibly working at NASA as a minority.

Jorge’s intern journey leads him to a second internship at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

I know that maybe there are people who, like me, have the same thoughts that I had: thinking that for not having a 4.0 GPA, or for not having important things that stand out in their area of ​​study, they would not be considered. However, it is not like that at all. My message to students: if you try hard enough, you can be here too. It does not matter if you have a category five hurricane against you, if you believe in yourself, you can achieve it.

Jorge currently interns in the Autonomous Systems Laboratory at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

Currently, I’m in my second internship at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. I’m currently working on the Autonomous System Lab developing a program that it will implement the capability to autonomously analyze the behavior of pumps, and apply to the pumps of the Nitrogen System. This capability will enable determination of anomalies and autonomous responses when anomalies are encountered. I’m doing this with help and guidance of my mentor Fernando Figueroa, who has been really helpful and a good mentor. I was just informed that I will continue this internship until the end of summer 2019. After my NASA internship, I will go back to school in Puerto Rico and finish my bachelor’s degree. Moving forward, I would like to get a job at a NASA center where I can continue making a contribution on the future of space exploration.

About the Author
Jorge Martínez is a student at the Universidad Del Turabo, finishing a degree in electrical engineering. He lives in Caguas, Puerto Rico with his parents and younger brother. In addition to going to school, he also has an elevators maintenance job. In his spare time he likes to play basketball with his friends, swim, watch series and go to the beach. When stressed due to workload, he likes to listen to music and eat. When he was a kid, he wanted to be an NBA player and an astronaut at the same time. Although he is 5’8″, he still believes he will make it to the NBA. He has worked hard and put a lot of dedication to finish his career and after that get a master’s degree, but he could not do it without the support and love of his parents and his girlfriend, who are always there to help and motivate him.

To learn more about NASA Internships, please visit intern.nasa.gov. Start your journey today! #NASAinterns