Navajo Intern Engineer Hopes to Inspire Native American STEM Students

As an American Indian College Fund ambassador and a Navajo engineer, Nylana Murphy aims to demonstrate to native students that the ‘world is for [them].’ 

Murphy first gained interest in NASA while learning about internships during the American Indian Science Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference: ‘a three-day event focused on educational, professional, and workforce development for Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands.’ 

Following the AISES conference, MAIANSE, which seeks to increase American Indian and Alaska Native engagement in STEM through authentic NASA experiences, helped Murphy with a summer internship offer. 

Murphy used her networking skills to secure two additional NASA internships in the additive manufacturing research lab at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.  

‘An internship isn’t just a job — it’s a foundation. A foundation built for one’s success. My internships have helped me get to where I am. Without the great opportunity of hands-on communication, I wouldn’t be in the direction of aerospace,’ Murphy said. 

While working on the additive manufacturing project, Murphy gained hands-on technical experience within a team at the agency. During her internship, she also used three-dimensional printing for Inconel 625 powder, which plays a significant role in aerospace utility tasks.  

Along with her part-time internship, Murphy juggled life as a full-time student at Navajo Technical University, pursuing her degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in additive manufacturing. 

Murphy hopes to use her degree and skill set to continue exploration and to inspire more Native American students in the world of STEM and NASA. 

‘There is a career for everyone, where their dreams can become reality. With a focus on education and the help of other technologically inquisitive Native students, those dreams WILL become a reality,’ Murphy said. 

Do YOU want to be on the NASA team? Check out our website to find information on eligibility and application steps. Or, for more inspirational stories about our interns, such as Mallory Carbon, check out some of our other intern features on our blog.

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

Intern Hopes to Research the Neurological Health of Astronauts During Missions

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

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

Curiosity

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

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

The Study

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

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

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

Goals

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

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

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

Claire A. O’Shea / NASA Johnson Space Center

Amanda Davidek: Engineering Inspiration at NASA’s Langley Research Center

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had very little understanding of what engineering was. I think I held a fairly stereotypical viewpoint of it: it was something that men did and it involved a lot of math. And what it precisely was that they did, I couldn’t say. It was not something I had considered at all up to that point when I considered potential future careers or what I wanted to study in college. It felt like every day I was bouncing from one idea to the next: doctor, architect, marine biologist. Then one day late in the year, my mom told me that she had signed me up for an event called Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at Purdue University. I went in with no way of knowing the impact it would have on my future path.

Over the course of the day, my eyes were opened to the seemingly endless possibilities of engineering majors and applications of an engineering degree. I also met groups of intelligent and friendly women who were studying engineering and I listened to their stories about how they made that decision. For the first time, I had some association between myself and the engineering field. I could relate to these women and I started to picture myself in their shoes. I began to fall in love with the idea. I had always enjoyed learning about calculus, chemistry, and biology, but I didn’t realize that I could apply these topics in so many different ways. I also didn’t realize engineering was as much about creativity and innovation as it was about hard science and math. I remember leaving the event and spending the whole two hour car ride home telling my parents about what I had learned. I then spent the next several months googling everything I could about different engineering fields. I ultimately landed on biomedical engineering, as it gave me a chance to explore the medical field in a way I hadn’t previously considered. I honestly haven’t looked back since then; I’m now entering my senior year at Florida Institute of Technology and the program has been a great fit for me and my interests. I’ve also really enjoyed learning about all the different applications of biomedical engineering in human spaceflight. That was one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far: you don’t have to sacrifice one passion for another. My love and interest in space could benefit my degree in biomedical engineering, even if the path wasn’t clear cut. This summer, I’m working at NASA Langley on the Exploration Medical Capability project, enhancing a database of medical supplies, devices, and pharmaceuticals for potential use in long-term human spaceflight missions. There is something incredibly rewarding about finally applying classroom knowledge on real world projects that could have great impact in the future.

I’m so thankful that I had learned about engineering when I did. It’s crazy to look back and see that I didn’t even know the field existed until halfway through high school! I most likely wouldn’t be where I am today if not for that one day many years ago. Now, I volunteer at my local Society of Women Engineers’ Introducing Girls to Engineering events and at local elementary schools in the hopes of impacting those girls in the same way I was. I love witnessing the curiosity and wonder that the girls all seem to share when they see videos of massive rockets taking off or hear stories about projects that the volunteers have worked on. I can’t wait to share what I’ve worked on this summer as a NASA intern at future events. Ultimately, I want to continue to help girls see that the world of STEM is much more expansive than they may think, and that it is open to anyone with passion and curiosity.

Apply for NASA Internships by creating a profile at intern.nasa.gov!