Episode 17: Nick Case

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Episode 17: Nick Case
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This episode is a part of the NASA
Student Opportunities podcast series.

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Show Notes

Special Guest: Nick Case, NASA co-op student

(0:00) Intro

(0:19) NASA's Cooperative Education Project   → is designed to train and develop students for the possibility of transitioning to full-time NASA employment upon graduation.

(1:20) Interview with Nick Case. University of Alabama in Huntsville senior Nick Case talks about the benefits of NASA's Undergraduate Student Research Project and co-op activities.

       NASA Undergraduate Student Researchers Project
       NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project
       Harriett G. Jenkins Predoctoral Fellowship Project   →

(7:56) 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 17. June 6, 2007. I'm Deana Nunley.

The NASA Cooperative Education Project gives college students an opportunity to combine academic studies with on-the-job training and experience. Students can earn money, take advantage of an excellent benefits package and complete their education while working on a NASA project. The co-op project is designed to train and develop students for the possibility of transitioning to full-time employment upon graduation. The project requires students to alternate between equal periods of work and academic study. Contact the cooperative education office at your college or university to start the application process.

More information about NASA's Cooperative Education Project is available in this week's show notes. Go to www.nasa.gov/podcast, and click on the NASA Student Opportunities podcast.


Nick Case is a senior at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and is scheduled to graduate in spring 2008 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical aerospace engineering. Nick plans to pursue a master's degree and hopes to land a full-time position with NASA. He's participated in NASA projects since high school, most recently in the NASA Cooperative Education Project at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

What got you interested in the space program?

Nick Case: When I was younger, I saw a shuttle launch for the first time on TV, and I knew that I wanted to do something with space. I didn't really know what. I started looking around and talking to people and came upon aerospace engineering. I think it was when I was nine or 10 that I knew I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. So, my mom saw that in me, and she kept pushing me to do good in school. I eventually got an internship at NASA when I was in high school. And that's when everything started rolling really fast for me. That was the main push, my mom, basically.

Deana: What were some of the other projects that you were involved in after that?

Nick: When I became a sophomore in college, I got involved with the USRP, Undergraduate Student Research Program, and did that for two summers. After that, I kind of transitioned to the co-op program.

Deana: So, how did you like the USRP experience?

Nick: I really liked that a lot because it was a learning experience and a working experience. It was more college-oriented than co-oping, I think. It was a summer 10-week program. It was really accelerated, and I enjoyed that. The co-op experience is more [like] self-paced learning. It's like almost really working for NASA, but you're supervised somewhat. But the 10-week program was really fast-paced, and I enjoyed being around all the college students and getting a taste of that. And also, working with my mentor was really a good experience.

The co-op program, I think, is the “in” point for all college students. If you are interested in becoming a NASA employee, the co-op program is the best way to go. If you just want the short, accelerated version, maybe the USRP is the thing to go to -- the summer program -- if you're just looking to see what NASA's about and to see if maybe you're interested. I think that [the USRP] would be for students that are on the fence, and they don't know if they want to do the entire co-op thing, because that's [co-oping is] a three-semester commitment. And that's a lot of school that you could be finishing up. But the co-op is really, really good at setting your path toward full-time employment, and that's what I look at it as.

Deana: Have you been involved with a lot of NASA research projects during your co-op and USRP activity?

Nick: I've had so many research projects over the time. Most of my experience was working with new components for propulsion systems and doing a lot of fluid mechanic research. That was something that I really didn't know too much about, because I wasn't far [enough] along in my classes at UAH to understand really what was going on. But doing those projects and learning, kind of firsthand, helped me in my classes. Because when I got to my classes, I could see the actual applications of what I was learning. That was the main benefit of doing all those projects, even though I didn't really know exactly what I was doing at the time. It came full circle, and I understood exactly what I was doing then, now. It's helping me along in school. So I really enjoyed that.

Deana: Do you expect that you'll end up getting a job with NASA?

Nick: I expect fully that I'll be able to transition from co-op to a full-time civil servant position. Everything that I've done has led me up to that. So I'm really sold on NASA. And everything that I've done has been positive, and I can't be more positive about it. I don't know how to do that. But I know that I've always wanted to work for NASA, and I was amazed that I was able to work at NASA at such a young age. Everything that I've done there has just been great, and I just can't wait to actually get out of school and be able to work there on my own. Eventually, I would like to be a mentor to other students, and pass on the values and everything that I got when I was a student there. So I'm looking forward to being able to do that.

Deana: If you were going to give some students advice, students who are considering NASA learning opportunities, what advice would you give them?

Nick: I would give them the advice that everything that you do is going to be a valuable experience. There's times that, when I was working, I didn't exactly know what I was doing, and it's frustrating. But eventually it will come full circle, and you'll understand. And, also, to not give up. It's very frustrating to young people when you get into NASA at first. I guess it seems to be almost too big to wrap your mind around it. And I think a lot of the students come into NASA thinking that everybody is working on the shuttle, and everybody is trying to put men into space. But it's really not that, and it takes a while. It took me a while to figure out that not everybody is working towards the same thing. But they're all working, as a whole, toward the same goal, and you have to understand that and find your place within NASA to understand that.

Deana: Where do you see your place?

Nick: I think that my place is to be the best engineer that I can be, and also to help incite change that NASA really needs. It's going around that the NASA workforce is getting old, and the only way that's going to change is if young engineers, like myself, come in and bring a change that's needed. And to ask questions. With the Columbia investigation and everything, the atmosphere is changing. And I just want to be a part of that. So, that's what I'm looking forward to.

Deana: If you're interested in more information about the NASA projects Nick discussed, check out this week's show notes. Go to www.nasa.gov/podcast and click on the NASA Student Opportunities podcast.


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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