Research on Plants in Space Leads to Law Degree

‘Not only did I feel supported at all times, but I also felt encouraged to pursue my passions.’ Josie Pechous worked at NASA Kennedy Space Center as a Bioinformatics for Space Crop Production intern. Photo credit: (NASA /Josie Pechous).
‘Not only did I feel supported at all times, but I also felt encouraged to pursue my passions.’ Josie Pechous worked at NASA Kennedy Space Center as a Bioinformatics for Space Crop Production intern. Photo credit: (NASA /Josie Pechous).

As spaceflight exploration ventures deeper into our solar system, astronauts will need a fresh, sustainable food source to maintain health and wellness. Understanding how plants are affected in spaceflight enables researchers to optimize growing conditions for peak nutritional value and harvest index,’ Josie Pechous said.

While at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Josie worked as a Bioinformatics for Space Crop Production Intern. She compared transcriptomes of previous plant spaceflight missions to identify any genes or signaling pathways that may be useful for future successful space crop production. She began her internship researching spaceflight-induced stressors on the human body. With an interest in plants and nutrition, Josie sought information on how the right diet can boost astronaut health, performance, and wellbeing.

Josie also composed a literature review on microgreens: small, nutrient-dense plants requiring little horticultural demands. She highlighted their nutritional composition, growing conditions, and potential for sustaining life on long-range spaceflight missions to supplement the pre-packaged spaceflight diet.

Mentorship was integral in making Josie’s internship a rewarding experience. Christina M. Johnson assigned a project that worked with Josie’s career goals and encouraged her to direct research to areas that matched her interests.

‘Focusing on a subject that I was passionate about while supporting NASA objectives was such a gratifying experience. Further gratifying has been the continued connection between me and my mentor post-internship. Although over a year has passed . . . my mentor continues to support me,’ Josie said.

The first growth test of crops in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) aboard the International Space Station. The APH is a growth chamber on station for plant research. It uses LED lights and a porous clay substrate with controlled release fertilizer to deliver water, nutrients and oxygen to the plant roots. Photo credit: (NASA/International Space Station).
The first growth test of crops in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) aboard the International Space Station. The APH is a growth chamber on station for plant research. It uses LED lights and a porous clay substrate with controlled release fertilizer to deliver water, nutrients and oxygen to the plant roots. Photo credit: (NASA/International Space Station).

After Josie’s internship, her research was incorporated into a scientific article, ‘Large-Scale Crop Production for the Moon and Mars: Current Gaps and Future Perspectives.’ She recently attended the American Society for Gravitation and Space Research annual conference and presented on the advantages of microgreen carotenoid composition for space travel.

Josie completed her degree at Drake University in biochemistry and cell and molecular biology. She now studies at Vermont Law School, pursuing food and agriculture law and policy for a sustainable future.

Interested in becoming a member of the team? Check out our website to learn more about the Artemis Generation and find information on eligibility and application steps. Want more content? Check out ten things you can do now to prepare for a NASA Internship.

Claire A. O’Shea / NASA Johnson Space Center

Mentorship is Vital to the Internship Experience

‘Our mentors, engineers, and people from other teams and projects were always accessible whenever we had roadblocks. They provided thorough feedback on our work and gave us a great technical experience.’ Kyndall Jones sitting in a cockpit at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. The computer-science major at Howard University worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an software engineer and instrument operations intern. Photo credit: (NASA JPL/Kyndall Jones).
‘Our mentors, engineers, and people from other teams and projects were always accessible whenever we had roadblocks. They provided thorough feedback on our work and gave us a great technical experience.’ Kyndall Jones sitting in a cockpit at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. The computer-science major at Howard University worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an software engineer and instrument operations intern. Photo credit: (NASA JPL/Kyndall Jones).

Despite the telework nature of this summer’s internship, Kyndall said that even from her home in Dayton, Ohio, she has been able to foster connections with JPL employees and gain valuable experience in her role working on software for an Earth-science instrument that will help NASA understand how different types of air pollution, which can cause serious health problems, affect human health.

And thanks to her mentor, Operations Systems Engineer Janelle Wellons, Kyndall was able to get the type of hands-on NASA experience that’s been hard to come by since the pandemic.

Photo credit: (NASA JPL Cal-Tech/Janelle Wellons).
Photo credit: (NASA JPL Cal-Tech/Janelle Wellons).

‘My mentor Janelle suggested that I come visit Los Angeles for a few days this summer, and I was finally able to visit and explore the city for the first time,’ Kyndall said. ‘I am also super grateful for her setting up a tour at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center where we were able to view, tour, and learn lots of interesting facts about NASA’s historical aircraft.’

Janelle splits her time operating instruments aboard several Earth-observing missions. She has been  involved in previous years’ roundtable discussions with historically black colleges and university interns. Being from the East Coast herself, Wellons remembers having little awareness of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a potential career landing spot while studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

‘Getting visibility and actually partnering with these schools to make these internships happen is so important . . . [internships] benefit JPL by broadening the talent pool and diversity of our workforce,’ Janelle said.

While interning under Janelle, Kyndall worked on the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) project. MAIA will make radiometric and polarimetric measurements needed to characterize the sizes, compositions and quantities of particulate matter in air pollution.

‘I can confidently say I wouldn’t have grown and learned as much as I have without their [mentors] constant feedback, support . . . and guidance.’

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. Want more content? Check out five important tips and words of advice from women interns in STEM.

Excerpts taken from the features writer for Internal Communications at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Taylor Hill, and his article on JPL Internship Program Expanding Diversity in STEM.

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.

NASA Interns Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Guess what we are celebrating? Across the agency, NASA is proud to commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Month, the annual observance honoring the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. At NASA, we celebrate the countless and enduring impacts Hispanics and Latinos have made at NASA and beyond. As scientists and engineers driving innovation and technology, entrepreneurs energizing our economy, advocates leading social and political change, and creatives bringing to life our arts and humanities, NASA recognizes the value of diversity and inclusion and the need for the continuation of change.

Hear from our current interns on their experiences as Hispanics at NASA and their advice to current and potential applicants.

Laura Paulino, Montclair State University

“Being Hispanic at NASA means working to ensure a voice and a place in the future for an underrepresented and underprivileged community. It means doing this with the joy, diversity, and good food that we share across our cultures.

I grew up in the most impoverished province in the Dominican Republic. I think about my privilege as someone who has been given the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and trauma. Whenever I feel like I can’t do something, I think about all the people back home who were never given the options and opportunities that I have. When I can’t face my fears for myself, then I do it for them. Our decisions are so much bigger than ourselves,” Paulino said.

Laura Paulino interns with NASA Ames Research Center and studies at Montclair State University as a graduate student. She encourages the Artemis Generation to stay inspired knowing that their work will save the planet.

Yesenia Sanchez, Columbia University

“Diversity in ideas and how to approach problems is what is most valuable. This allows us to solve problems differently and value ideas that diverge from our own but work towards a greater good. Representation can only get us so far, what we need is to be listening and working with each other.

I especially want to advise non-STEM students to take a shot at an internship. NASA is so much more than just engineers; it is also historians and archivists working hard to preserve NASA’s legacy. This has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as an intern. I also say to keep trying and not be disappointed if your first time applying is not successful,” Sanchez said.

Yesenia Sanchez interns with the history team at NASA Headquarters. She studies International and World History at the London School of Economics at Columbia University.

Andrea Lastra, University of Houston

“It’s incredible to think that just 12 years ago, a 9-year-old me came into this country without knowing English and not knowing exactly what she wanted to do when she ‘grew up’.  After years of constant hard work, setbacks, and dreaming about the future, I finally made it to NASA! I am proud and happy to be an Engineer, to be a NASA Intern, and most importantly, to be Hispanic,” Lastra said.

Andrea Lasta interns at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center and studies mechanical engineering at the University of Houston. She wants potential applicants to know that interning at NASA is attainable. Once you get over the hurdle of not feeling good enough, anything you set your mind to is possible.

Gabriel A. Colon Sanchez,  University of Puerto Rico

“Being Hispanic at NASA shows how diverse the world is. It proves that we are all part of a bigger community where we encourage each other to become better people. It feels amazing to represent my country and my people in such great experiences.

For students like me who saw this as a dream, believe in yourself and work hard. Join clubs and participate in whatever activities you can! Every experience moves us forward in our careers. Try to become a leader in your community and inspire others,” Colon Sanchez said.

Colon Sanchez interns at NASA Stennis Space Center and studies software engineering at the University of Puerto Rico.

Mia Belle Frothingham, Harvard University                         

“It means getting to be exactly who I am with my colleagues and being able to include my culture and values through my work and contribution at NASA. I love meeting other Hispanic co-workers; it reminds me to celebrate what makes us and our community beautiful!

Never give up. It takes immense determination and dedication to achieve big things in life, failures or rejections should never put you down. Pursue what you love, find your passion and follow it,” Frothingham said.

Mia Belle Frothingham interns at NASA Headquarters and studies biology at Harvard University.

Cindy Valdez, Los Angeles City College

“Don’t let fear, judgment, lack of representation, or lack of support stop you from following your passions and dreams. Get involved in competitions and professional organizations to narrow down your major concentration and career path.

Don’t ignore opportunities to work in a group, as this will expose you to the soft skills that are often overlooked: interacting with different personalities, leveraging talent, learning from other perspectives, negotiating, or resolving differences.

There is no set formula that you can emulate to obtain an internship at NASA. Take the route less traveled and start believing in yourself; soon both your path and new opportunities will unfold. There is no need to chase a NASA internship. It will come to you,” Valdez said.

Cindy Valdez interns at NASA Ames Research Center and studies aerospace engineering at the Los Angeles City College.

No matter where you come from or what you are studying, you too can reach for the stars.  Spring internship applications open the first day of October, apply at intern.nasa.gov. If you’re looking for more information on Hispanic Heritage Month, check out the NASA page.

Waryn R. Flavell

Claire A. O’Shea

 

Podcasts Highlight the NASA Intern Experience

If you’re fascinated by the idea of interning at NASA, contributing to NASA missions and exploring the extraordinary every day, you’ve come to the right place. Listen to #NASAinterns experiences via NASA’s Podcasts! Don’t see a topic here that you want to learn more about? Tweet us your recommendation!

Houston, We Have a Podcast: How to Be a Successful Intern at NASA

Interns Jaden Chambers from Kennedy Space Center and Leah Davis from Johnson Space Center are joined by mentor Kelly Smith in this episode examining the highly effective habits of successful interns. This episode will be available July 29 at https://www.nasa.gov/johnson/HWHAP.

The Invisible Network Podcast: 2021 Interns

Each year, NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Internship Project welcomes students of all levels to develop projects of real benefit to the agency while earning real world experience in their fields. In this episode of The Invisible Network podcast, we’ll speak with members of 2021’s intern cohort at three different NASA centers. This episode was published on July 29 at https://www.nasa.gov/invisible.

Small Steps, Giant Leaps Podcast: Intern Takeover

Interns take over the Small Steps, Giant Leaps, podcast from NASA’s Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership (APPEL) Knowledge Services. This episode was published on July 29 at https://www.nasa.gov/podcasts/small-steps-giant-leaps.

Women in STEM

Sophia Hahn, Shelita Hall, and Emily Anderson, NASA interns from across the agency, discuss being women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math), their journey to work at NASA, and the unique opportunities they have experienced during their internship. This episode was recorded on June 14, 2021 and available at https://www.nasa.gov/johnson/HWHAP/women-in-stem.

Uncommon Origins

Shawn Cvetezar, Laura Paulino, and Don Caluya, NASA interns representing NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Ames Research Center, and Johnson Space Center, respectively, reflect upon the non-traditional paths that led them to NASA and share the many areas and projects that are benefitting from their experience. This episode was recorded on May 27, 2021 and available at https://www.nasa.gov/johnson/HWHAP/uncommon-origins.

Citizen Science on Station

Sarah Smith, a NASA intern, interviews students who were recently selected to fly their experiments to the International Space Station as part of the program under NASA’s STEM on Station initiative called Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science, or SPOCS. The interviews for this episode were recorded in March of 2021 and available at https://www.nasa.gov/johnson/HWHAP/citizen-science-on-station.

Better Together

Shaneequa Vereen, public affairs specialist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, speaks with NASA interns as they recount their journey with NASA, sharing their backgrounds and experiences they had before and during their time with the agency.  The content for this episode was recorded on February 5, 2021 and available at https://www.nasa.gov/johnson/HWHAP/better-together.

Pathways

Jonathan Abary, Pathways Program Manager, and Alexis Vance, Pathways intern in the crew and thermal systems division, discuss the Pathways internship program at NASA Johnson Space Center. This podcast was recorded on March 20th, 2019 and available at https://www.nasa.gov/johnson/HWHAP/pathways.

Want more? Learn more about NASA Internships by:

As NASA continues to move forward with the Artemis program, you, the Artemis Generation and future STEM workforce, will help take us to distant worlds. Are you ready? Visit us and apply at https://intern.nasa.gov.

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!

Roy sisters intern at NASA while pursuing their engineering degrees

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 the Roy sisters: Puja & Pratima.

Meet Puja Roy, an intern at NASA's Glenn Research Center.
Credits: Puja Roy.

Puja Roy

Puja Roy is an intern at NASA Glenn Research Center and a sophomore at New York City College of Technology majoring in Computer Engineering Technology shares her NASA internship journey. 

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

I have been interning remotely at NASA Glenn Research Center since Fall 2020 and I am proud of my accomplishments because working for NASA on a STEM project is the most rewarding experience ever!

What is your role on your current project?

I am a Software Engineer Co-op Intern at NASA Glenn Research Center.

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

I am currently working on the same project “Converting Java Applets to JavaScript for web-based Aeronautics Simulations” which I have been working on during Fall 2020. This STEM project ties into the Moon to Mars mission and the Artemis program because it is an extensively popular site that receives high traffic views and consists of lesson plans, projects and interactive simulations to explore the theory and practice of flight in space.

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

I am staying connected to NASA employees and other interns by attending weekly meetings in Microsoft Teams.

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

CUNY New York College of Technology and the clubs/organizations that I am affiliated with has helped me develop professionally in my STEM journey by providing me resources and endless opportunities.

How do you feel interning during #CountdownToMars?!

I feel electrified and elated interning during #CountdowntoMars!

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

I feel thrilled and welcomed at NASA of working as a Software Engineer (OSTEM) Co-op intern because I have achieved many accomplishments by contributing to NASA missions, completing online SATERN trainings and gaining support and guidance from my mentors.

Meet Pratima Roy, an intern at NASA's Glenn Research Center.
Credits: Pratima Roy.

Pratima Roy

Pratima Roy, an intern at NASA Glenn Research Center and a senior at New York City College of Technology majoring in Computer Engineering Technology. Roy shares her experiences of interning at NASA. 

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

I truly believe that God and the support of my family has given me the opportunity to intern at NASA. God observes everything we do and what we want in our lives and a dream can actually come true!

What is your role on your current project?

I am a Computer Engineering Student studying at CUNY New York City College of Technology. I am enjoying and working very hard on the PeTaL project here at NASA Glenn Research Center. 

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

My project ties into the Moon to Mars mission because I am learning about Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Biomimicry and AWS Web services. Our work can tie into this by having Robots or tasks completed at Moon to gather data and labeling. I know that when the Astronauts go to the Moon, they will need many data collection and research from Moon to Earth. This made me think about how my project ties into this because when going to the Moon we will need information from Moon and other planets. Then we can have that information on Earth. The Scientists and Researchers can work on implementing more strategies and devices to gather and collect in order to reach Mars safely and smoothly. 

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

I am connected with NASA employees and other interns through Microsoft Teams and Slack.

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

WiTNY and Rewriting the Code has helped me develop professionally in my STEM journey.

How do you feel interning during #CountdownToMars?!

I feel so blessed and excited to intern during the Count down to Mars because I am able to learn and be part of an amazing government agency-wide organization to contribute my work with NASA interns and employees.

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.

It’s never too late for a career change, non-traditional intern speaks about her journey to NASA

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 Sarah Smith. Sarah is an intern at Johnson Space Center and a recent graduate of the University of Washington Tacoma where she majored in Communication. 

Meet Sarah Smith. An intern at NASA's Johnson Space Center.
Credits: Sarah Smith.

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

I’m a non-traditional student who returned to school later in life to change career paths, as well as finally finish my degree. My undergraduate experience was awesome and nothing short of life changing. As a student at the University of Washington Tacoma, I found my calling in science communication and media production. With the encouragement of two of my amazing professors, Bill Kunz and Cheryl Greengrove, I took on a research project to create a documentary with the UW School of Oceanography about building the Regional Cabled Observatory, part of the Ocean Observatories Initiative. As I looked toward graduation in December 2020, I wanted to find opportunities that would help me continue to learn and grow while also utilizing my skillset to contribute to something bigger than myself. I never thought I’d be working at NASA, but when I came across the opportunity to apply to be an intern, I jumped at it. I feel so lucky now to be in this position as a STEM on Station intern, and to be doing what I love – storytelling, media creation, and communicating about science and the NASA mission. I’ve already learned so much and feel so supported and valued by my STEM on Station team. This internship is truly a dream come true!

What is your role on your current project?

STEM on Station intern – communications support.

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

STEM education and engaging students around the country in NASA missions and programs, specifically through STEMonstrations, SPOCS, Downlinks. 

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

I try to attend as many online events as I can to get to know others, and make sure to introduce myself to other interns and NASA employees whenever possible so they can also get to know me. I’ve connected with a few interns so far who are also non-traditional students or recent graduates, and we’ve chatted over coffee a couple times to get to know each other a bit better and begin to build a network. I also attend the “Coffee with Coordinators” meetings whenever possible to stay connected!

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

Working on campus, volunteering and taking advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow outside of the classroom is so important as an undergraduate student. While not a student organization, I worked a student job in the Advancement office on campus and hosted the school’s podcast. I learned so much in this position, and had the opportunity to conduct interviews on such interesting topics! Also, taking on an undergrad research documentary video project led to some incredible growth as a STEM communicator. It provided some really exciting out-of-the-box opportunities to learn about how technology is advancing ocean science and exploration. 

How do you feel interning during #CountdownToMars?!

It’s super exciting! I have two teenage daughters and it feels extra special to share the #CountdownToMars with them as well. We’re all looking forward to tuning in next week to watch the landing.