Adam Naids is our very first Going Places Intern/Co-op Spotlight. He is a senior, working on an undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics. He has topped off his outstanding academic record with a multi-semester co-op with the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. Check out the NASA is Not Cancelled video, featuring Adam, at the end of his interview. You can find this video and more on ReelNASA’s YouTube channel.
How did you land the internship and how did you navigate the process?
The road to actually getting this internship was a long one. I first found out about the program while searching the internet for internships my freshman year of college. Even though I had very little engineering experience, I applied just to get my name out there and see what I could do to make my application better the next time around. I did not get the internship that first summer but I continued to apply for each session they offered. Finally, after applying four times I finally got called for an interview and got the job.
If I can give some advice to people looking for internships or co-ops it would be to not give up. Keep applying and don’t get discouraged. Also, don’t be afraid to apply for a Spring or Fall offering even if it delays your graduation. These experiences are extremely valuable and will make you a much better candidate to get a job once you graduate. In my case it is taking me five and half years to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree, but I will have completed 4 internship tours. Additionally there are a lot less people that apply for internships or co-ops during the school year than do in the summer. So you have a much better chance of getting accepted for offerings during those times.
To explore internship opportunities I would definitely recommend using Career Services. Their EagleHire system was extremely valuable in finding internship opportunities. They also offer many great classes that teach you how to get an internship. You learn how to dress, how to interview, how to make a great resume, and many more. They were a great resource for me and I am grateful for all of their help.
What have you done and what are you doing on your internship?
Throughout my internships and co-ops at NASA I have had the opportunity to be a part of many amazing projects. My first internship I worked on a reduced gravity simulator. This crane-like system has been designed to simulate the microgravity environment in space, the gravity on the Moon and on Mars. It is currently being used to train astronauts to work in microgravity and will be used in the future to train astronauts to walk on planetary bodies like the Moon and Mars. During my time working on this project I helped design a new generation of the system itself, developed and performed tests to mitigate a problem in the system, and supported human and robotic testing.
My second internship I worked on the Space Exploration Vehicle. This vehicle is being designed to enable mobility at destinations beyond Low Earth Orbit. It will be able to maneuver around an asteroid and even drive across other planetary surfaces like the Moon and Mars. When people talk about spaceships they talk about vehicles like this, and I was very fortunate to get to work on this. During this internship tour I helped assemble the vehicle, personally designed the side windows and integrated them and numerous other components on the vehicle. It was very hands on and I spent many hours in the machine shop. This was truly an amazing experience.
Currently I am working on the International Space Station (ISS) Program. My specific group is responsible for training people to become Flight Controllers. These flight controllers are responsible for the Electrical Power and External Thermal Control System on the ISS. Throughout my time here I have learned about the process it takes to be a flight controller and have developed a huge appreciation for what they do. I have gained immense knowledge in systems engineering and learned so much about the ISS and how magnificent it really is. Additionally, I developed lessons to teach flight controllers in training how to communicate in Mission Control.
As an intern here at NASA we are very fortunate to have many distinguished speakers come and talk to us. Some of the people I have heard speak are NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Chris Ferguson and Sandy Magnus of the Final Space Shuttle Crew, Duane Ross the head of astronaut selection, Gene Kranz, Jim Lovell and Fred Haise of the Apollo 13 crew, and many more. In addition to these lectures we get to go on tours of the NASA facilities. The most interesting tour I have had so far was of the Lunar Rock Curation Facility. It is in this facility that all of the moon rocks brought back from the Apollo missions are stored. Getting that close to these national treasures was such an awesome experience. Another exciting event that we set up was our Apollo night. At this event we watch the movie Apollo 13 in the historical Mission Control Center that the Apollo missions were flown out of with Gene Kranz, the Flight Director during that time. He gives his personal account of the Apollo 13 mission and then we watched the movie. It was one of the most fun nights I have had while here.
What opportunities are available for students at NASA, post-shuttle?
Even though the Space Shuttle Program has ended there are still plenty of opportunities at NASA and their contracting companies as well. NASA is preparing to take humans beyond Low Earth Orbit for the first time since the days of Apollo. There is a lot of work that needs to be done before we can proceed with this endeavor, and that work is going on now. Currently NASA is developing the Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) that will carry humans to these far off destinations. They are also building a brand new heavy lift rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS) that will launch the Orion capsule into space. Additionally, much research is being put into how to explore an asteroid. NASA is currently planning to take humans to an asteroid for the first time in history. This is a difficult mission and there is a lot of work going on trying to figure out how to do this. Even more exciting is that NASA’s long term goal is to land humans on Mars. There is a lot of research and development going on to enable this mission to be successful. These are just a few of the bigger projects going on at NASA that co-ops and interns have the opportunity to work on. It is a great time to be at NASA because the future is bright. History will be made and you can be a part of it.
What advice do you have for students seeking an internship?
When looking for internships that interest you, have an open mind. Almost nobody gets to do their dream job as an internship. So when you are searching for available programs, apply to openings even if you don’t think you will enjoy it. Having an internship doing something you don’t like doing is better than not having an internship at all. That will allow you to get your foot in the door and open up more opportunities in the future. Furthermore, you may end up liking something you never thought you would. In my case I was placed to work with Flight Controllers and see the process they go through to train. I never thought of myself as a flight controller in a million years. However, after being here and seeing what they get to do, it is something I would highly consider if I were to be offered a job here. To sum up, I would say be open minded, try new things, and do the best job you can at the tasks you are given. Doing that will open up opportunities for you to pursue your dream job.
Internships and Co-ops are the best thing you can do for your career while in college. They enable you to put the knowledge you learn in a classroom immediately to use on real world applications. It allows you to figure out exactly what you like and don’t like doing. And even though you may not be assigned the most exciting tasks in the world, everything you do is important to your growth as an individual and for your career. I cannot emphasize enough how imperative it is to do some kind of internship or co-op during college. And it is important to remember that these opportunities will not just come to you. You need to actively go out there and search for them. Search the internet, talk to friends, and use Career Services. There are many avenues to take to be successful; you just have to find the right one. I hope that sharing my experiences with you motivates you to get out there and apply. I have had the greatest times of my life during my internships and co-ops and I want others to have that same experience.