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LERCIP Participant Sony Rane
Sony Rane and Linda Sekura holding a banner

During her LERCIP internship, Sony Rane (left) was involved in the Renewable Hydrogen Today project under the advisement of her mentor Linda Sekura. Image Credit: Sony Rane

In which NASA student opportunity project did you participate, and how did you get involved in it?

I submitted a LERCIP application in January of 2009, which indicated my interests in sustainability and renewable energy. I was accepted as a LERCIP intern at the NASA Glenn Research Center during the summer of 2009, and I interned in the Safety, Health and Environmental Division.

Explain the research you conducted through your NASA involvement, and why this topic is important.

My main research was conducting a life-cycle assessment on writing utensils during my internship. I compared the raw material sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution of different types of traditional and alternative pens and pencils. Life-cycle assessments, or LCAs, are integral to determining the total environmental impact of a product. Consumers can use LCAs when deciding which type of product to purchase, and companies can use them to benchmark the sustainability of their products against their competitors' (products).

My mentor was involved in a project called Renewable Hydrogen Today that focused on the construction of a renewably generated hydrogen fueling station in the Cleveland area. I helped with the development of a website for the project, assisted with outreach events and helped review grant proposals.

I also helped establish a composting program for the main cafeteria at NASA Glenn Research Center.

What has been the most exciting part of your research?

The renewably generated hydrogen fueling station was such an innovative project that neither my university professors nor my class textbooks had any prior information about hydrogen as a transportation fuel. The research I was exposed to at NASA was cutting-edge, and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn so much about it anywhere else. I definitely wouldn't have been able to get as deeply involved in the project either. My mentor made me feel like I was part of the renewable-energy revolution by involving me in the hydrogen project, and it was very exciting.

What is your educational background and what are your future educational plans?

I am a graduating senior at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a double major in environmental studies and business administration. My time at Pitt has exposed me to a variety of different career paths in the environmental field, and my interests have become rather broad. I've enjoyed studying green businesses, environmental law, wetlands ecology, international policies and much more. Once I realize which environmental field I want to focus on, I will further study it in graduate school.

What inspired you to choose the education/career field you did?

When I was younger, I dreamt of becoming a humanitarian and somehow saving someone from something. But as I grew up, I realized that I couldn't decide which group of beings to save from what type of problem.

This confusion led me to focus on the universally relevant subject of the environment. The health of the soil, water and air are intrinsically important to the well-being of all organisms on planet Earth. By working for the protection of the environment, I feel as though I'm performing a service for all life forms.

What do you think will be the most important things you’ll take away from your involvement with NASA?

My internship at NASA gave me a broader understanding of the environmental field and an appreciation for all the smaller steps required in the research process. I understand the practical applications for sustainable initiatives like hydrogen fuel, waste composting and life-cycle assessments. Conducting the LCA was an extensive process that required a great deal of persistence and patience. My internship helped me cultivate both of these traits.

How do you think your NASA involvement will affect your future?

I formed many relationships with my two mentors, fellow interns and co-workers at NASA, and the lessons I've learned from them will help me in my future. Interning at NASA provides a distinctive credibility to my educational background and work experience, and I think it will reflect favorably to future employers.

What are your future career plans?

I am currently looking for a job after graduation in the environmental field. I would prefer to be in a dynamic position, doing meaningful work and interacting with people.

What advice would you have for other students who are interested in becoming involved with, or working for, NASA?

Make sure you speak to NASA representatives at career and internship fairs. Make connections with NASA employees who work in your field of interest and show them what you can bring to the department. Read all you can about NASA's research and familiarize yourself with ongoing projects.

Related Resources:
>  Lewis' Education and Research Collaborative Internship Program
>  NASA's Glenn Research Center
>  NASA Education