October 7, 2003
Former NASA Co-Op Student Now Doing The Teaching
Image left: Daisy Mueller says the co-op program is "a learning experience for both mentor and student."
Back when Daisy Mueller was a graduate student, she jumped aboard the NASA Cooperative Education Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to learn from the best and brightest NASA had to offer. Today, she's a full-time employee -- and finds she's the one doing the teaching.
Mueller's job gives her the opportunity to educate. As an industrial engineer, she works hand-in-hand with NASA civil servant and contractor personnel to coordinate safety and efficiency for the Space Shuttle program at Kennedy.
Even with her busy schedule, she always makes time for the students in NASA's co-op program -- still remembering and appreciating the opportunities it gave her.
The NASA co-op program helps provide a better understanding of human relations in the workplace and offers practical experience that relates academic studies to work. NASA mentors work with students from across the globe to find summer and semester-long positions that match students' personalities and educational strengths, while teaching them some of the day-to-day workings of the space agency.
Mueller works one-on-one with each new crop of co-op students, whom she considers the future of NASA. That's arguably a category Mueller, 30, still falls into, as well.
"You never step away from that co-op environment," Mueller says. "Everyone who has been a co-op remembers the experience of working with their mentors, learning from the things they taught you -- no matter how small.
"Whether it's how to manage time and take advantage of opportunities, dealing with a wide variety of people or the quickest places to go for lunch, I'm sharing things I learned when I was in their shoes," she says. "It's a learning experience for both mentor and student."
Mueller, who joined Kennedy Space Center full-time after finishing her master's program in industrial engineering in 1999, finds herself passing along the same lessons she was taught.
"Everyone starts in the same spot, so as a mentor and former co-op, you already know what's running through their heads, the hurdles they have to overcome," she says. "I struggled with working in such a large organization, so I try to pass along ideas of how to deal with that so they get the most out of their experience."
For Mueller, these lessons go further back than her NASA co-op days. Her parents, immigrants from Colombia, came to the United States with nothing in their pockets but the hope of giving their daughter a great education. It's lessons like that one Mueller wants to pass along to her co-ops.
"My parents always taught me to stay motivated," she says, "to stay focused on moving forward -- not just with my education, but with other things in my life.
"They helped me learn to value opportunity," she adds.
Those life lessons have carried over naturally into Mueller's career, and now she's teaching them to the future of NASA. And that future looks extremely bright.
Media organizations interested in interviewing Daisy Mueller should contact Tracy Young, Kennedy Space Center Public Affairs, at: 321/867-9284.
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