NASA People

Center Snapshot: Surbhi Gupta
07.25.09
Gupta snapshot. Image above: Surbhi Gupta is a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., who is part of the INSPIRE program this summer at NASA Langley. NASA/Sean Smith

By:
Jim Hodges

When Surbhi Gupta struggled getting her physics homework done early in her junior year at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, she decided that something had to give.

So she gave up Facebook.

She's not much into Twitter either, though it's not because she's not into social networking.

"I prefer to talk with people," said Gupta, now a rising senior at Jefferson and an Interdisciplinary National Science Project Incorporating Research and Experience (INSPIRE) student at NASA Langley this summer.

She learned about the NASA opportunity from a Web site at Thomas Jefferson, and working at the center seemed like a good way to spend the summer. Almost as good as last summer, some of which she spent in France, Italy and Greece. She counts the week she spent with a French family in Orleans at the high point of that trip.

NASA is another story.

"Since I was little I've been interested in science," said Gupta of her interest in NASA. "And I took an astronomy course, so I know something about the makeup of stars and the universe."

Her time at Langley has been a revelation.

"I've learned so much about NASA," Gupta said. "I've done so much with the other INSPIRE students, and I didn't know NASA did so much in so many areas -- especially here (at Langley)."

Some of that knowledge has come from time spent in the Strategic Relationship Office's Events department, where she is working with Meghan Guethe on some of the displays used in NASA exhibits.

"I'm trying to give it a different look to make it more appealing to my generation," Gupta said.

The daughter of a father who develops databases and a mother who tests software, Gupta is a 4.0 student who likes physics, even if she had to give up Facebook to deal with it. "I definitely enjoy solving a real hard problem," she said. "It gives me a sense of accomplishment."

She gets that sense in many ways.

One was getting into Thomas Jefferson, which involved a test, resume and essay as an eighth grader. And don't discount the essay. "I know a girl who didn't get in who finished in the 99th percentile on the test," Gupta said. "I know a person in the 50th percentile who did get in."

Away from school, she likes movies – "Stardust" and anything involving Harry Potter are favorites – and music, particularly that performed by Linkin Park and Phil Collins.

And she enjoys dance, particularly Kathar, a classical Indian dance that she has performed on stage. And she is president of GEMS, the Girls in Engineering, Math and Science club at Jefferson.

Gupta plans to attend the University of Virginia, perhaps to study physics, perhaps biology, perhaps business.

With that, Facebook might be shy another customer for a while.