An Intern's Story: Langley Summer Puts Her Back on Track
Summer interns come to NASA's Langley Research Center for various reasons. Some want a good summer job. Some want a resume boost. Others want to take a look at what could be their own future. Most leave surprised at what they are given a chance to do. Over the next two weeks, the Researcher News is presenting a few of their stories.

By: Andrea Dickason, University of North Dakota

What’s better than spending a summer working for NASA’s Langley Research Center? Coming back the next year to do it again.

I had the privilege of returning after interning here last summer, and this second experience has been just as good as the first.

I received my acceptance e-mail to the LARSS program in early March and mailed in my acceptance letter the next day, without even waiting to hear back from the other internships to which I had applied.

My previous experience here was so rewarding that I knew Langley was where I would be challenged and where I could learn the most. Just like last summer, I was not too clear on what exactly my project would entail but, also like last summer, it did not matter.

Andrea Dickason, 2010 intern.

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Andrea Dickason, a rising senior at the University of North Dakota, spent her summer at Langley in working in the Space Missions Analysis Branch. Credit: NASA/Lindsay Dias.

I love Virginia (except for the humidity—that I can do without!) and I love NASA, so I was excited to go back no matter what I was doing. As it turned out, my project could not have been better for me, even if I had designed it myself.

I grew up loving the idea of space travel and dreaming of being an astronaut. Pictures of shuttle launches and planets still adorn my walls, and yes, I have even gone to space camp.

So imagine my joy when I found out that I would be working in the Space Missions Analysis Branch under mentor Gabe Merrill, getting to use software specially created for NASA to create a 3-D visual environment that integrates mission plans and data. Essentially, I am making sure that conceptual spacecraft subsystems behave and interact as designed, dynamically modeling the systems in their operating environment and finally integrating and iterating those data sets with input data from outside sources to build a visual representation of a beyond-Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) human mission.

If that is not cool enough, the different spacecraft I am helping to analyze have the potential to be the vehicles in which I travel through space, way down the road. I am a rising senior in college. I never expected to get to work doing something I love while I am so young.

People have often asked if I like what I am doing here, and I am never quite sure how to answer. Really, I want to say no, because what I feel is much more than that. I am living my dream, even though it is only for a summer.

But even deeper than that, this summer re-inspired me.

I hit a rough patch academically this past year and began to doubt my ability and aspiration to finish my engineering degree. I lost interest in my classes, and by the end of the school year I was seriously considering changing my major.

The work I got to do this summer was just what I needed to get me back on track; to show me that not only am I capable of graduating as an engineer, but also to bring back my desire to do so.

Because of this internship, I plan on continuing to pursue my dream of getting a graduate degree in Aerospace Engineering and working for NASA.

Once again I am sad to leave Langley. But I am thankful for the vast amount of knowledge I have amassed, the invaluable inspiration I have regained, the experience I have been able to earn in my field and the future opportunities this internship has made possible for me.


The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Keith Henry