Text Size

James Magargee - Driven to Succeed
Conversations with Goddard banner


James Magargee thinks a Goddard internship is the perfect place for a career-driven graduate student.

Name: James Magargee
Age: 25
Hometown: Atwater, CA
Position: Summer Intern
Code: 541, Materials Engineering
School: Northwestern University
Major: Mechanical Engineering doctoral program

What do you do here at Goddard?

I’m helping the materials engineering branch develop a new device that allows them to test the strength of materials at a very small scale. Specifically, my role as an intern is to take a whole bunch of pieces of machinery – high precision sensors, motion devices – and integrate all of these things together in a computer system that controls everything in one simple-to-use interface.

What inspired you to apply for a position?

I am a graduate student, so I am highly motivated to keep a very focused career path, which involves the properties and testing of materials. I saw through the
Photo of James Magargee› Larger image
Photo of James Magargee. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Becky Strauss
NASA website that there was an opportunity at Goddard to help build a materials-testing machine. My background at Northwestern allowed me to create my own machine there, and I thought, “Why not help NASA do something I have some experience in.” I could also get new experience working with materials specific to aerospace technology.

What are your first impressions of Goddard?

A few words come to mind – community, collaboration, exploration, and friendliness. There is also the fact that there is a strong support network between the scientists, engineers and the human resource establishment here. Everyone is working together toward the same missions and the same goal to help Goddard as a whole.

How do you support Goddard’s mission?

The materials engineering branch is a support branch. Whenever there is a project that requires a piece of material, which is essentially every single project here, they come to us.

What was the coolest thing to happen to you at Goddard?

I participated in a NASA-wide teleconference with the other NASA centers. Because my boss was out of town at the time, I presented on his behalf to some important senior people at NASA. The opportunity to represent Goddard at that kind of level was a great experience.

Who is the most interesting, inspiring, or amazing person you have met or worked with at Goddard?

I have met many amazing people here. One of the people that stands out to me isn’t an engineer. I met Pat, a photographer, in line at Celebrate Goddard while waiting an hour to get crab cakes. He told me about all he has done here at Goddard. Being a photographer, his perspective is a little different from an engineer’s. He showed that there is a big community at Goddard, which is essential to what Goddard is.

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

If you are a graduate student, do not be discouraged to apply to an internship. As a graduate student, I feel like you get into this mindset where you are in constant work-mode toward one particular goal, but I believe Goddard offers opportunities to strengthen yourself on that path and gain new experiences toward furthering your career.

Do you have a favorite book, magazine, movie, or TV show?

I am really enjoying “Space Chronicles” right now by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It gives a nice perspective on what has happened at NASA and its history, but also provides interesting insight on what may happen in the future. I think it is very important for our generation to be aware of this and be prepared for the coming dramatic changes.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

As a young adult, I think it is going to be important for us as a culture and a country to understand that the world is increasingly dependent on technology. Many folks are seeing that the rest of the world is going at a faster pace than the U.S. I am not saying that everyone needs to be a scientist or an engineer, but I am urging people our age to understand how important and crucial technology is to the progression of our culture.

Related Links:

› More Conversations With Goddard
Katrina Jackson
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.