Internships are a vital part of the college experience, no matter where a student does them. But when students get the chance to intern with NASA, it’s an opportunity that they cannot pass up.
Three seniors at Oswego State have been chosen to intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory this summer at the California Institute of Technology. Delvison Castillo, Samantha Bielli and Andrew Darwin will be assisting the JPL with the Cassini Project.
These three students are not the first to be chosen to work with JPL. Now graduated Oswego State student Earl Bellinger was selected by the labratory last year. According to professor Shashi Kanbur, Bellinger “had a lot of international research experiences through the SUNY Oswego Global Laboratory. He did an outstanding job, hence why they asked me to suggest more students this summer.”
Kanbur was responsible for nominating all three students for the internship. He also helped the students with their résumés and went over questions with them that they were likely to face in their interviews.
“After class one day, one of my computer science professors pulled me aside and asked me if I would be interested in an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” Darwin said. “My response was, of course, one of interest in the idea.”
All three students had to meet a GPA requirement of 3.5 or greater, in addition to going through a long list of requirements to apply.
“The application process involved submitting a résumé, transcripts, and a cover letter online, and having a phone interview with one of the managers at the Jet Propulsion Lab,” Bielli said. “Once we were accepted, we also had to send in an acceptance letter, and soon we will be submitting ‘project plans’ which are more detailed explanations of what we will be doing over the summer.”
Upon receiving his acceptance letter, Delvison Castillo had somewhat mixed feelings.
“I am actually quite surprised that I got chosen,” Castillo said. “It’s not that I question my skills as a student, but more so that I thought a big and prestigious organization such as this one would have chosen students from the more elite universities such as Ivy League schools. I am definitely happy and excited to have gotten this internship. It is a bit intimidating because when I think of NASA I think of how prestigious it is in the scientific community. This is an organization that works with some of the most intelligent individuals in the world and outputs an amazing amount of qualitative research.”
Each student was excited to have been given the chance to have such an experience.
“I’m extremely happy to be chosen for this internship, as it is a much different opportunity than any I have had in the past,” Bielli said. “This internship is going to provide us with relevant real-world experience which builds on our coursework here at Oswego, and I think it will open a lot of doors for us in the future.”
Not only were the students happy, but Kanbur was too. Kanbur described his reaction to the students being chosen as “a mixture of genuine happiness, elation and pride.”
With an experience like an internship with NASA, there is much to look forward to for these students.
“I am most looking forward to the tremendous learning and resume building experiences I expect to have at JPL,” Darwin said. “Secondly, I am looking forward to the opportunity to live on my own for the first time, on the opposite side of the country. I am hoping to build a strong set of positive relationships with the professionals at NASA so that I can put myself a giant step closer to a great career.”
Castillo hopes to achieve something similar.
“At its broadest, the internship will be mainly about web development,” Castillo said. “This has always been an area of interest for me and I feel that this internship will help me clarify whether or not this is the field of computer science which I want to pursue.”
Castillo said the internship provides opportunities that extend far beyond the summer.
“The experience itself of course is extremely helpful, because not only will it make me more marketable on my resume, in terms of applying for grad school and jobs, but it will also make me more competent as a computer scientist,” Castillo said. “Besides those two points, perhaps the most important gains from this experience are the feelings of self-gratification and self-accomplishment.”
According to NASA’s official website, Cassini completed its initial four-year mission to explore the Saturn System in June 2008 and the first extended mission, called the Cassini Equinox Mission, in September 2010.
The mission that Castillo, Bielli and Darwin will be working on is the Cassini Solstice Mission, which is a second extended mission of the Cassini Project that is “seeking to make exciting new discoveries.”