If it’s meant to be, it will come back. Alex Suh’s opportunity at an internship was taken away due to the pandemic, but he didn’t give up on his dreams. Now, he is researching the effects of spaceflight on the human body as an intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Read about his second chance at following both of his career passions: medicine and space.
His Opportunity Vanishes
Suh applied for a NASA internship during his last year being an undergrad. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, he was unable to continue the process of becoming an intern. Suh felt he had lost his chance to fulfill his childhood dream of working in the space industry since he would soon get busy with his strict academic path toward medical school. Suh had never even heard of a medical student interning at NASA.
Almost two years later, Suh learned that he would receive ten weeks off for summer vacation between his first and second year of medical school and thought this would be the ideal time to try again for an internship opportunity.
A Second Chance
Suh decided to apply and jumped up and down in excitement when he received an acceptance letter to research the physiological effects of spaceflight on the human body at the Johnson Space Center. He loved his initial experience as an intern and decided to extend his internship part-time into the fall while also taking preclinical courses at Tulane University School of Medicine as a Cardiovascular and Vision Intern.
“This internship has given me an opportunity of a lifetime to explore the field of aerospace medicine at a place where it is most applicable and exciting — Johnson Space Center. Every day this summer, I’m excited to get out of bed and learn more about the effects of spaceflight on the human body. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be a flight surgeon one day,” Suh said.
If you’re interested in interning at NASA, visit the website for information on opportunities and requirements. Read about more interns on the intern blog, such as Susie Bennett’s story on her path to an Exploration Research and Technology Programs internship.
Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor NASA Johnson Space Center
Nicholas Houghton dreamed about becoming an astronaut but initially pursued an internship in the automotive industry instead. He never felt connected to his role, so he decided he wanted to pursue his childhood aspiration with an internship in the space industry. In 2018, after networking with dozens of people to learn about NASA and the application process, he accepted his first internship at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Strategic Partnerships Integration.
Houghton then worked on the Orion Crew Survival Systems team (OCSS): the mission to build the next generation launch and entry suit along with the associated crew survival and recovery hardware the crew uses upon return to Earth.
Houghton’s projects for the OCSS team include making an ice-based portable cooling unit for the OCSS suit and modifying an Orion seat mockup in the OCSS lab to incorporate a working display and control unit. The portable cooling unit allows the crew to stay cool while going to the launch pad and during the capsule and crew recovery process. The Orion seat mockup mimics the cockpit and control layout found in the Orion Spacecraft and is used to ensure the OCSS suit is properly sized for each crew member.
‘The OCSS team is very close, and my team members are always willing to answer questions, teach me about the suit, or help me with my projects,’ Houghton said.
One thing Houghton wished he knew before his internship was that NASA accepts interns from every state in the US. ‘I grew up in Michigan and I had no idea that working at NASA was a realistic option. I wish I had known that NASA accepts interns from all over the United States,’ Houghton said.
With his involvement in the Pathways Internship Program and his recent double degree in Master of Science in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering and Industrial Human Factors Engineering at Purdue University, Houghton is set to become a full-time employee at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on the Orion Crew Survival Systems team.
Want To Be A NASA Intern?
If you are a US citizen or from a participating country, make sure to visit our website and apply for a NASA internship. You never know where it will take you! Need some advice on applying? Check out the ten things you can do to prepare for a NASA internship. Or, for more inspiration, read about Nylana Murphy, a Navajo Intern Engineer, and her goal to demonstrate to native students that the world is for them.
Carolina Rodriguez, STEM Engagement Communications Intern Claire O’Shea, STEM Engagement Communications Intern, Editor NASA Johnson Space Center
At NASA, our workforce is made up of people who have pursued higher education in countless different fields – but that doesn’t always mean attending a 4-year university right after high school. In fact, many people in the NASA family (astronauts included!) have taken a non-traditional path to their education.
In celebration of Community College month, let’s chat with intern Jessica Bardetsky about her experience attending a community college.
Where It All Began
Since she was a little girl, Jessica has always been fascinated with space saying, “I love space! There is something mysterious about it. The first thing my family did after moving to Texas was visiting NASA. I could never dream that I would be able to work here.”
Jessica, a senior studying Public Health with a minor in Psychology, is a Data Entry intern. As a Data Entry intern Jessica updates master spreadsheets to ensure that each institutional imagery file has a metadata description prior to submission.
Jessica got her start at Lone Star Community College. “Lone Star provided me with the opportunity to complete core curriculum for a fraction of the cost. Attending Lone Star was one of the best decisions I made. Classes are much smaller and provided me with a more engaging learning environment and the opportunity to connect with both teachers and students.”
With excellent academic performance, she was able to transfer to Texas State University, where she was accepted into the National Health Education Honorary, Eta Sigma Gamma. As a member, Jessica connected with others where she was able to develop professional relationships and get involved in community outreach.
Starting at a community college was the first step in gaining the necessary qualifications to get into the honors club and bring what she learned from Eta Sigma Gamma into her NASA internship.
Jessica has some advice for other college students, “Do your research. Look into where you would like to work and contact the organization and ask if they accept interns and how you can become one. Everyone knows that NASA has internship programs, but not everybody knows that you don’t need to Major in Engineering to become an intern with NASA. This organization provides opportunities for non-engineering interns as well as engineering interns.”
Are you interested in learning more about NASA internships? Visit our website for more information on current NASA Internship opportunities. Or, check out our NASA Internship blog. There, you can find valuable tips on the best practices when applying. Also, be sure to follow us @NASAINTERNS on social media to keep up to date on all things NASA Internships!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 theUniversity of Washington Tacoma where she majored in Communication.
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.
By Vanessa Rincon International Education Week 2019 Edition
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.
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.
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
The phone call students receive when offered an internship is life-changing, but it’s only a brief moment in their journey to becoming a NASA intern. Xavier worked tirelessly for years with his goal in mind, and receiving his internship offer made everything worth it.
The day that I received the call from the Johnson Space Center will forever remain one of the defining moments of my life. The disbelief, excitement, anxiousness, nervousness, joy, and sense of accomplishment all compiled at once. It was a moment that I did not need to look back in hindsight to realize just how momentous it truly was. Finally, the sleepless nights, words of encouragement, and struggles endured, are paying off. I knew what I was capable of, and now nothing could stand in the way of me achieving my dreams.
My journey began entering middle school. I quickly found myself as a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol, and at the age of eleven I flew my first plane. The rest of my time consisted of engaging in emergency service exercises, learning fundamental aerospace concepts, and learning how to fly. By the end of the eighth grade I had earned the rank of Cadet Second Lieutenant.
Starting high school, certain that I wanted to have a future in aerospace, I had my sights set on the Air Force Academy. Consequently, I attended Rancho High School, enrolling in both the Private Pilot and Aerospace Engineering programs. Rancho exposed me to a plethora of new experiences ranging from becoming a varsity wrestler to learning the Russian language. I also met my wonderful teacher and mentor, Mrs. Sara J. Quintana, who opened my eyes to the possibilities and beauty of engineering. Upon graduation from Rancho, I earned my Private Pilot License, worked as an aircraft mechanic, earned twenty-seven credit hours of college credit, and was accepted into the United States Air Force Preparatory Academy. However, I found that my interest in a career with the Air Force waned. I declined my admission offer and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).
My time at UNLV has been nothing short of extravagant. During my first year I joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). As a member of AIAA, I joined a team tasked with designing and building a solar-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to be flown approximately 340 miles away. This beckoned me for I loved all things aviation and maintain a deep love for the environment. Within NSBE, I began giving back to my community through educational outreach events devoted to encouraging secondary school students to pursue higher education. Then, things ceased to prosper.
While staffing an outreach event I encountered a former high school instructor who told me I would never make it to NASA. I was in a state of disbelief to hear this, however it only motivated me. With fervor, I made it a mission to prove him wrong. Shortly thereafter, I was elected president of my university’s NSBE chapter. While this restored a fair amount of my confidence, I soon found myself in a deeper rut after suffering the loss of a close friend and the former NSBE president before me. Stricken by grief and confusion, I was overwhelmed in an unprecedented manner. Months passed and as the community began to heal, I found a new motivation. One that was no longer just about myself, but rather my community at large.
Pressed with school, work, and emails, I finally got a call during my lab. I rushed out to answer it, and once I heard who it was from, the world fell silent. “This is it,” I thought to myself. “It’s finally happening.” A journey truly out of this world had just begun.
Kelly DeRees knew she wanted a STEM career from the moment she laid eyes on Space Shuttle Endeavor, so she pursued several NASA experiences — and created STEM opportunities of her own — to make it happen.
When you’re standing nose-to-nose with a space shuttle, it’s hard to not want to be part of the team that made it fly.
This is how I felt as a freshman in high school, when I walked beneath Space Shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center before she flew to California to be in a museum. Now I’m a junior in college, and I’m an intern at Johnson Space Center in Houston. It’s been a long journey to get here, and I’ve been fortunate to have many NASA experiences along the way, all of which have taught me something that helped me get to JSC.
In high school, I joined several NASA education programs, including engineering design challenges, job shadows, and a student community that received mentorship from NASA employees. Many of the programs I was part of have since been phased out or replaced, but the lessons I learned from them have stuck with me. If you’re a student interested in being part of the space program, I recommend checking out current NASA student opportunities. If you’re in high school, the Optimus Prime Spinoff Promotion and Research Challenge program, or OPSPARC, is a great opportunity to exercise your engineering and communication skills while interacting with NASA scientists and engineers. If you’re in college, the Micro-g NExT program will allow you to design and build a tool for astronauts to use during a spacewalk, with the opportunity to test your device in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at JSC.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from NASA is persistence in the face of challenges. I’ve had plenty of chances to stumble on my way to where I am now. Through my NASA experiences, I learned that there is an opportunity within every obstacle. Sometimes I’ve tripped and fallen due to factors beyond my control, and sometimes the obstacles were my own fault. Regardless, learning to find an opportunity within every one of these challenges has built my confidence and problem solving skills. When one of the education programs I was part of in high school was discontinued, I channeled my disappointment into creating opportunities where none existed before. I mentored a middle school girls’ STEM club, scheduled my own job shadows with scientists from NASA and the Smithsonian Institution, and started a club for space advocacy in my hometown. It was hard, but it was a valuable lesson to learn and I now apply the same philosophy at JSC and in my personal life. When something doesn’t go my way, I don’t see it as a barrier to success – it’s an opportunity for me to learn or try something new.
In addition to the technical skills I’ve learned with NASA, I also learned the importance of networking. I started building my NASA network in high school, and expanded my network during my first internship at NASA Goddard. My networking at Goddard led directly to an internship in Huntsville, AL with a private company in summer 2017. I also had the opportunity to meet with a U.S. Senator and Goddard leadership because of the network that I built. Learning how to use my connections has played a big a role in getting me to JSC.
My journey to become a NASA engineer, and ultimately an astronaut, is only beginning, but I am grateful for the NASA experiences I have had so far. I’m not sure what my life would have looked like without them, but I’m fairly confident I wouldn’t be at JSC right now had I not had those experiences. For anyone who stands where I stood six years ago, dreaming of space but not knowing how to get there, keep learning, keep trying, and keep pushing forward. Many doors won’t open on the first try, but the victories are well worth the effort.