Joshua Ehrlich received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida in May 2011. As an undergraduate student, Joshua completed two internships with United Launch Alliance and an internship with the NASA Space Florida Academy. When he began his graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University last fall, he was determined to obtain a graduate-level internship. His hard work paid off, and he recently completed a Graduate Engineering internship with NASA at Kennedy Space Center.
How did you learn about this internship opportunity?
From the middle of the fall 2011 semester to the end of March, I was applying for as many internship positions as I could find every day, across the globe. I used the internet to my full advantage targeting websites geared specifically towards college students, as well job recruitment businesses and private company websites. I specifically applied towards a NASA internship program that involved a great deal of paperwork and supplementary documentation for my application, which included lengthy essays and recommendation letters from professional references. However, I was told by a fellow student that there was an additional internship within NASA called the Kennedy Intern Program (now called the NASA Pathways Intern Employment Program (IEP)). I applied, simply sending my resume and transcripts to the email provided in mid-February; I received an offer in mid-April and accepted. My advice: No matter how big, small, easy or lengthy an internship application or process may be, take advantage of every opportunity available to you, whether it’s a Fortune 500 business or a 40-person small firm. You’ll be happy you did when you get the call.
As a graduate student, why did you think it was important to obtain an internship?
I highly recommend obtaining an internship while a graduate student, especially if you did not have any extracurricular experience with a company as an undergraduate student. Internship experience reveals to companies, either when you apply for a secondary internship or a job after graduation, that you are desired and are equipped with a skill set that other potential rivaling companies seek. Internship experience prepares the student for what the lifestyle is like as a full-time employee. You learn and develop certain professional standards, communication skills, and technical knowledge that are not only specific to the company for which you are interning for but for the general field of work you are pursuing down the road. Additionally, an internship proves to both you and the company you are working for that you either are or are not capable of ‘keeping up’ with other employees, that you are able to provide support with the skills and qualities you possess and then some without having somebody watching over you; you must have the desire to work with minimal oversight. An intern gains experience by understanding what they are capable of in the workforce, as well as gaining the confidence to excel above and beyond the call of duty.
What projects did you work on while completing your internship with NASA?
I was involved in numerous projects within several divisions during my time at Kennedy Space Center. I was splitting my time between the System Engineering & Integration division and the Materials Engineering & Processes division. I tested and analyzed composite infusion processes for the Composites for Exploration (CoEx) project for the intent of developing and analyzing dry composite structures and materials technologies for future space exploration applications. Additionally, I supplied system requirements in the design of the Science Carrier Unit (SCU) for the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) system, an International Space Station (ISS) scientific payload to be delivered in 2015. I also supported APH mechanical design teams in developing Pro-Engineer models of the Expedite The Processing of Experiments to the Space Station (EXPRESS) currently installed on the ISS under the APH project. Finally, I developed flight safety data packages, design verification matrices, and verification & validation procedures for qualification testing and supported fellow engineers in the build of VEGGIE, a small-scale expandable plant growth system to be sent to the ISS in 2013.
What piece of career advice would you like to share with those seeking an internship/co-op experience?
My advice to students seeking an internship/co-op, especially those who have no prior internship experience, is to become active on campus. Pursue research opportunities, attend clubs meetings/socials, and participate in any extracurricular activities that are presented to you or are available. You cannot be another face in the crowd, but rather a leader outside the classroom. To put it simple: You must want it! You are competing with hundreds of other candidates, so you need to ask yourself, “How am I going to stand out from the rest? What do I have to offer that makes me a highly desired candidate?” An internship will not be handed to you, so the only way for you to be offered the opportunity is for you to earn it. One last piece of advice I offer is do not give up. You will receive more rejections than offers, a lot more. But all you need is one, one offer to be presented to you. So take advantage of your time, become active at school, and apply for as many internships openings as possible, and you will succeed.