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Andrew Tsoi - Interning Across NASA
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Andrew Tsoi reflects on his experiences in both the aeronautics and space sides of NASA internships.

Name: Andrew Tsoi
Age: 22
Hometown: Littleton, CO
Position: Summer Intern
Code: 542, Mechanical Systems Analysis and Simulation
School: University of Colorado, Boulder
Major: Aerospace Engineering, rising senior

What are you working on this summer?

I support my mentor, Ben Emory, in understanding structural dynamics of spacecraft. We are working on the James Webb Space Telescope and the Magnetospheric Multiscale missions. We study the natural modes and frequencies of how a satellite vibrates during launch. Eventually, we will hand off our results to the engineers who set up the satellite on the rocket.

What inspired you to apply for a position at NASA Goddard?

I was an intern at NASA Langley Research Center for 11 months. Langley does a lot of aeronautics work, so I wanted to get experience on the space side of my major next. We took a few tours of Goddard Space Flight Center when I was at Langley, and a lot of the work the
Photo of Andrew Tsoi› Larger image
Photo of Andrew Tsoi standing in front of the GPM satellite in the acoustic test chamber. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Becky Strauss
scientists and engineers were talking about was fun and exciting. I decided to apply to several summer positions at Goddard, and was able to get in.

How does Goddard compare to Langley?

Langley has everything within walking distance, but the Goddard campus is a lot bigger. It also has more lectures for students to attend. When I have free time, it is cool to go see a talk about the James Webb Space Telescope or a mission to land a boat on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. There is a lot of communication within the center and everyone is talking to each other about what they are doing.

How do you support Goddard’s mission?

NASA’s main goal is science. We are using engineering to make sure the instruments going into space work and do not fall apart so that the science can come back in.

What were the most useful classes that have helped you in your current position?

Because we do structural work, my structures class in my junior year was helpful. Then there is my aircraft dynamics class. We studied the natural modes and frequencies of aircraft. It was something that was applied to airplanes, but suddenly I realized that it applies to everything with this mathematical matrix that you can dissect and take useful information out of.

What makes Goddard’s internship program so great?

They allow you to be as curious as you want to be. The program managers say, “If you don’t like what you’re doing, talk to us, and we’ll figure something out,” because they want to make sure you are doing what you want to do. It really focuses on the student’s responsibility to learn. Goddard does a 50/50 thing, where 50 percent of your work benefits your mentor, but the other 50 percent is you learning something new, so you can go out of your comfort zone.

What advice would you give other students interested in an internship here?

Just do it. Apply to as many internships as possible. SOLAR lets you apply to a maximum of 15 opportunities, so apply to everything that sounds even remotely interesting.

If you could meet and talk to anybody, living or dead, who would it be and what would you ask them?

We are right by Washington, D.C., and can see all these monuments of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. As founding fathers of the country, they may wonder how the United States is doing now. I am curious to see what they would think if they were to come to 2011 and see a space shuttle launch in Florida.

Do you have a favorite way or place to kick back, relax, or have fun?

I was able to find a house with two other previous NASA Langley interns who are working at Goddard this summer. Every day after work, we hang out together. On the weekends, we go and see different things unique to the Washington, D.C. area.

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Katrina Jackson
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.