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An Intern's Story: Erika Weldon
Each June, NASA's Langley Research Center welcomes hundreds of student interns. This summer, about 300 students from all over the U.S. who are studying majors that lend support to NASA's mission, will spend the next 10 weeks working at the center. For the fourth year, the Researcher News is presenting a few of their stories.
By: Erika Weldon, Rochester Institute of Technology

I strongly believe there is no greater feeling than being up on top of the Gantry, standing above the treetops and knowing that I'm walking where astronauts have once walked.

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Erika Weldon, a summer intern in Langley's Media Services Branch, takes flight suit photographs for the Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars program. Credit: NASA

I first heard of the LARSS program from a professor of mine who had interned at NASA Langley Research Center. This inspired me to pursue the opportunity, and I ended up working in the same photo department where he was once an intern.

Since hearing about the program, I have graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and acquired a Bachelor of Science degree in Imaging and Photographic Technology.

As a photography intern for the Langley Media Services Branch, experiences like the ones at the Gantry have become a normal occurrence, and I can honestly say that the two summers I've spent working here have been some of the best times I've ever had.

I have actually been lucky enough to work for LARSS two summers in a row, and I can honestly say that my previous time spent working here was the best summer I've ever had.

For my job I am responsible for photographing many events on center, including assisting high-speed photographers during the SPLASH testing of the Orion Ground Test Article.

Last summer I was involved with five SPLASH tests, and each test day meant twelve long hours of work. In order to set up the high-speed cameras, our days would begin at 6 a.m. and sometimes wouldn't end until 6 or 7 p.m.

There were usually eight cameras involved for each test, including two up on top of the Gantry. This was a daunting task because there are no walls up there to keep you from falling, only railings.

When we were carrying photography equipment, like the cameras, tripods, cables and laptops, we had to make sure we didn't trip!

Despite the menacing features of the Gantry, there would be times I would look down at the test going on below me and I would realize that in a small way my work contributes to the good of NASA.

Another job of mine is to photograph LARSS events, such as lectures, picnics, fun night, bowling and the graduate seminar luncheon. These events have given me the opportunity to network and spend time with other members of the NASA community.

When I think of the friends I have made, the people I have met and the contacts I have acquired, I realize I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity in my life.

One of my more challenging jobs has been taking photographs of different models inside the wind tunnels. The highly reflective surfaces of these models make them hard to photograph, because it is like trying to photograph a mirror without getting yourself in the picture. It is no elementary task.

Even with the challenges, I have enjoyed the different aspects of my job. I have taken photos of the space grant students in a formal portraiture setting, photographed NASA's 16-foot Transonic Wind Tunnel during demolitions stages and taken pictures at lectures and special events.

As a photographer at NASA, I get to see a lot of different projects and tests that other people may not even know about. This is important for the center, and I love the feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself.

Each time I work with these projects I am struck with the idea that everyone here at NASA is working together, in one way or another, toward a common goal.

Working for the LARSS program has allowed me to make lasting friendships, and I have met some truly great people that I am sure I will know for a lifetime.

NASA has prepared me for future jobs, and has enabled me to compete in an industry that demands the best from its future applicants. The skills and knowledge I've gained from my time here could not have been taught in a classroom.

This real world experience, I hope, will set me apart from other college graduates, and I know that when I leave here I can be proud that my resume reads: "NASA Langley Research Center Intern".

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman