Episode 12: Ahmad Mahmoud

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Episode 12: Ahmad Mahmoud
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This episode is a part of the NASA
Student Opportunities podcast series.

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Show Notes

Special Guests: Ahmad Mahmoud, NASA co-op student

(0:00) Intro

(0:19) NASA offers volunteer opportunities for students to work during the school year, or during summer or school vacation periods.
       NASA Volunteer Service  →
       USA JOBS Volunteer Service Opportunities  →

(1:00) Interview with Ahmad Mahmoud. Rutgers University aerospace engineering student Ahmad Mahmoud offers tips on getting selected for NASA learning opportunities.

       NASA Cooperative Education Projects  →
       NASA Undergraduate Student Research Project

(6:18) End

Send your comments or questions to: educationpodcast@nasa.gov

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Deana Nunley: This is NASA Student Opportunities -- a podcast connecting high school and college students with learning opportunities inside America's space agency.

Episode 12. May 2, 2007. I'm Deana Nunley.

NASA is one of many federal agencies that offer unpaid training opportunities to students in high school and college. These opportunities provide work experience related to numerous academic programs that allow students to explore career options, as well as develop personal and professional skills. Student volunteers may work during the school year, or during summer or school vacation periods. For more information and application materials, go to www.nasa.gov/podcast. Click on the NASA Student Opportunities podcast and check out the show notes for this week's episode.


Ahmad Mahmoud is studying aerospace engineering at Rutgers University and plans to graduate in December 2008. He spent last summer at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Ala., as a participant in NASA's Undergraduate Student Research Project. The project offers undergraduates across the United States mentored research experiences at participating NASA centers and research support facilities.

Ahmad is trilingual. In addition to English, he speaks Arabic and Spanish. At Rutgers, he's been involved with creating multimedia products, building a formula racing car practically from scratch, and investigating the flight mechanics of butterflies and other insects in an effort to simulate their ability with a machine. Ahmad is working now as a NASA co-op at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, concentrating on wind tunnel testing and aerothermal analysis for launch vehicles.

Ahmad Mahmoud: We have three tours of duty. That's what they call it. Basically, I'm here -- I'm at Marshall -- for a semester and then back at school for a semester, and they consider the summer a semester. So, I'm here this spring. I should be back in school this summer, and I'll be back here in the fall, back in school in the spring, and then be back here in the summer.

Deana: What's your daily routine?

Ahmad: I usually come in at 6:30 because, I guess, I like waking up early. I'd be at the wind tunnel helping out, making the model changes and supervising up until around 9 o'clock, when the second engineer would come in. Then I would just go to the office and adjust new models, because we're going to be doing another test, and somebody needs to design the models, and that's what I do. Otherwise, I'll write programs for the aerothermal team. I probably do that to around 2:30, when the first engineer goes home, and then I'll be back at the wind tunnel helping the second engineer.

Deana: Do you think the Undergraduate Student Research Project experience has grounded you well for the career you're choosing?

Ahmad: Yes, definitely. I also have an amazing mentor, T.A. Ferguson. She kind of spoiled me. She didn't just tell me what to do. She actually sat down with me and taught me how to do it. After a while, she just let me go my own way because she felt I had learned enough. Plus, she was also being moved to other branches, so she left me to do work she had after she was sure that I could do it. So, it was an amazing experience.

Deana: What about students who are considering applying for NASA learning opportunities? What would be your advice to them?

Ahmad: My advice would be "do it," because NASA is very good when it comes to interns and co-ops. A lot of people feel in awe of NASA because it's NASA, but it's really not as, I guess, fancy or out of reach as you'd think. It's definitely within reach if you just try it, because I didn't even think I would get in, but I did.

Deana: What do you have to do to bring it within reach?

Ahmad: Just make sure you know what you're doing at school. Do a lot of extracurriculars. Try to not fit the mold. Try to be outside of the mold a little bit.

Deana: How so?

Ahmad: Well, obviously, do good in class. But don't think that getting a 4.0 is all you need, because I've actually talked to a lot of people about grades and stuff, and they all agree that good grades are important, but they're not the only thing. You have to do extracurriculars like research and formula racing and stuff like that just to show that not only are you a good student, but you're actually truly interested in what you're learning, and you've been able to apply it to real world skills -- because all employers that I have ever spoken to have told me that experience is the first thing they look at.

Deana: The NASA Cooperative Education Project gives students an opportunity to combine academic studies with on-the job training and experience. If you're interested in NASA's cooperative education projects, contact the cooperative education office at your college or university to start the application process.

And a quick note on the Undergraduate Student Research Project: Applications are being accepted now for the 15-week fall session. You can get details by following links in our show notes. Go to www.nasa.gov/podcast. Click on the NASA Student Opportunities podcast and view the show notes for this week's episode.

We want to hear from you. If you have questions or comments about NASA learning opportunities, send an e-mail to: educationpodcast@nasa.gov

Thanks for listening.

NASA Student Opportunities is a podcast production of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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