Major: Materials Science and Engineering
- What was your internship or co-op and how did you find it?
My co-ops/internships were through at NASA Langley Research Center (Hampton, VA), working as a materials research student. I found these internships through the NASA One-Stop Shopping Initiative (OSSI), where you can create a profile and apply to up to 13 NASA opportunities across the country all at once.
- What was a typical day on the job like?
I worked on three different projects during my time at NASA so my typical day varied depending on the progression/scope of my current project. Generally speaking though, I would begin every day like a normal professional by catching up on emails and camping out next to the coffee brewer. From there though, a typical day could mean donning a lab coat and spending hours running reactions to coat nanoparticles, or hunkered down at my desk to write a paper/presentation. I always had lunch at the NASA cafeteria with the other interns; the food was really good and I miss the taco Tuesdays dearly. I usually spent the afternoons running any larger tests (e.g. open flame testing of gas barrier samples, microscopy of my nanoparticles, or wear testing of composite metal foams) or in meetings regarding the progress of projects and where to go from here.The end of Tuesdays and Thursdays was always running with my co-workers; about 5 miles around center to stay in shape and wind down from the day. Mondays and Wednesdays usually had any assortment of NASA intramurals from volleyball to soccer at the on-site gym. Fridays usually were spent at NASA “Afterburners”, the on-center bar in the cafeteria, where my coworkers and I usually discussed weekly progress obstacles and weekend plans.
- What was your favorite part of the experience?
I really enjoyed the variety of people I worked with at NASA. NASA attracts passionate people with backgrounds in programming, art, finance, as well as science, which made for some of the most interesting friendships I have ever had. Collaborating with technicians on the floor of the model shop (where wind tunnel models are often hand-made) to giving presentations to NASA chief technologists made me an extremely well rounded researcher. Watching the journey from an idea on a whiteboard, to a model on the shop floor, to being presented to management has given me an invaluable perspective and appreciation for the behind-the-scenes work at NASA and other research facilities.
- What advice or encouragement do you have for other students looking to take advantage of similar opportunities?
Find a passion and, better yet, find your niche within that passion. Space exploration has always been an interest of mine, so when I started studying materials science, I ended up naturally falling into the sub-field of materials for space applications (for example 3-D Printing in space and thermal protection for spacecraft). I highly encourage others to find the intersection of your interests because the opportunities you encounter could be tailor made for you to excel in.