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An Intern’s Story: A Face Behind the Data
06.29.12
 
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: Christian Johnson, Canisius High School (Buffalo, N.Y.)

Imagine a seven-year-old boy sitting at a computer. What do you envision? Maybe he is enjoying a race car game, or perhaps he is trying to wrap his mind around a game of solitaire. Chances are you never pictured him re-formatting the computer's hard disk.

I have always been driven to understand what it is that makes touching a single button cause a transformation of black pixels into a complex portal of information. It was, and always has been what motivates me to solve new challenges in front of the screen every day.

Being able to work at NASA is a continuation of the drive I've always had to understand technology and STEM-related topics.

Christian Johnson, NASA intern.

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Langley Aerospace Summer Scholars (LARSS) intern Christian Johnson is working in Langley's Information Management Branch this summer. Credit: NASA/Maryam Amer

During the fall of my freshmen year of high school, I began to participate in the NASA Interdisciplinary National Science Project Incorporating Research and Education Experience (INSPIRE).

I participated in the Online Learning Community and the Summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) experiences, which were offered to me during my freshmen and sophomore year. I gained further interest into the science and technology that related to NASA's mission.

The Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholars (LARSS) program was an opportunity that was presented to me from the INSPIRE project. I was enthusiastic about applying to the program amidst the hectic academic curriculum at Canisius High School, a private Jesuit high school in Buffalo, N.Y.

Upon acceptance, the anticipation in knowing that I would be able to apply my computing knowledge in a NASA internship position, traditionally made available to college students, added an element of excitement to the remaining semester of junior year.

Working in the Information Management Branch (IMB) at Langley is a unique environment for any intern. The daily atmosphere in the workplace -- from listening to fighter pilots fly overhead while you work to having collaborative web and software development discussions with fellow developers -- reflects only several small characteristics that paint a larger picture.

The goal of the IMB is to efficiently store massive quantities of data so that other engineers have access to find and share research and scientific data that pertains to the projects they are working on. As developers, it is our job to create the software that makes finding and retrieving such vital information a seamless process.

Through web applications like Langley Google, and other software tools, the IMB is able to provide access to an impressive data repository of hundreds of thousands of digitized Aerospace documents and numerous other resources in order to enhance the quality of information available to engineers and scientists.

Having the opportunity to make a direct impact on the visibility of the information made available is an exciting way to start my internship experience. Not only will my project provide a way for engineers to connect and share information center-wide, but it will directly impact the probability that engineers will find solutions amongst their peers in a manner that wouldn’t have been possible several years ago.

Given my interest in nearly all aspects of computing, from software development to network design, it is impressive to witness first-hand the massive hardware infrastructure that is implemented on center in order to meet the needs of both civil servants and contractors.

It is amazing to realize the petabytes of data that engineers have developed as a result of the numerous projects, and generated research data that is gathered and supported on such a large network. The demand for these services will continue to grow daily on an exponential level.

Being able to contribute to the solution with some of NASAs leading developers has already made my internship experience incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.

As I continue to develop and incorporate my project into the overall scheme of services provided by my department, I will embrace my learning experiences that will prepare me for my studies in college. Ultimately, this will help me achieve my career goals in computer science.


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