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An Intern's Story: What Do Science, Math and Writing Have in Common?
06.25.12
 
Each June, NASA's Langley Research Center welcomes hundreds of student interns. This summer, about 300 students from all over the U.S. who are studying majors that lend support to NASA's mission, will spend the next 10 weeks working at the center. For the fourth year, the Researcher News is presenting a few of their stories.
By: Maryam Amer, Old Dominion University

Even though it was more than ten years ago, I can still remember being filled with excitement the first time I pulled into the gate at NASA Langley.

I was only 8 years old, and my mom was taking me to 'Take Your Daughter to Work Day.' I thought my mom had the coolest job in the world, because at that young age, I thought that working at NASA meant that she was going to space.

Maryam Amer.

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LARSS intern Maryam Amer recently graduated from Tabb High School and will be attending Old Dominion University in the fall on a full scholarship. She plans to double major in Civil Engineering and Journalism. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

Years later as a sophomore in high school, I still considered NASA to be the greatest government agency. While other kids my age spent their spring break vacationing in Florida, I was in Hampton, volunteering at the center and being the nerd I was born to be.

Both my parents are engineers, so I grew up loving numbers and math. But my first job involved neither, as I volunteered in Langley's Public Relations Office. Working there exposed me to a whole new world outside of math and science: the world of communication.

After just a week of working within the office I knew I had found a new passion, but I still wasn't able to give up my love of math. A few days after volunteering, I applied for the NASA INSPIRE Program, where we worked through mock NASA experiments and projects.

My Langley experience continued the summer before my junior year, after being named a top INSPIRE student and given the opportunity to study as an engineering student at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

The two weeks I spent in that program are easily the two greatest weeks of my life. Although the classes were hard, the engineering environment was a definite fit for me.

Despite the fact that we all went to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T) to study engineering, the group of INSPIRE students all had diverse areas of interest. A few of the students had an interest in writing as well, and inspired me to pursue my passion.

After such an enlightening trip I came home and joined our school newspaper, The Tiger Times. Writing articles, shooting pictures and developing layouts for the paper quickly evolved my passion into a new love.

The summer going into senior year, I started NASA's LARSS (Langley Aerospace Summer Scholars) program. I was the "baby" of the program, and was able to work in the same office that had previously opened my eyes to the wonderful world outside of math and science.

While working in the Public Relations Office I experienced the different facets that NASA offered. My office was always involved in current happenings on center, which I then researched so that I could better explain them to the public.

It was the perfect combination of what I wanted to do, mixing my interest in science and math with writing.

When I explained my new interest in writing to my number-oriented parents, they were confused. However, they could tell that it made me happy, and that's all that mattered. Though when the talk evolved into majoring in liberal arts, worried faces and secret whispers erupted in the Amer household.

I spent my entire senior year stressing about which major to choose, while I worked for the school paper and applied to again work for NASA. My college acceptance letters mirrored my indecision, ranging from Georgetown University’s School of Journalism to Virginia Tech's College of Engineering.

One day it hit me, I don't have to choose between the two amazing things that I love to do at all!

I can now gladly announce that I will be attending Old Dominion University in the fall on a full scholarship, in hopes of double majoring in Civil Engineering and Journalism.

NASA has not only been influential as I've grown up, but it's also served to create educational goals and career paths for my future.


The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman