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An Intern's Story: It's Data, but Also Talking About Data
Summer interns come to NASA's Langley Research Center for various reasons. Some want a good summer job. Some want a resume boost. Others want to take a look at what could be their own future. Most leave surprised at what they are given a chance to do. For the third year, the Researcher News is presenting a few of their stories.

By: Stephen Quinn, Plymouth State University

Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde once said, "Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing."

Wilde was a man true to his word. I put a lot into my experience experience at NASA's Langley Research Center, and it gave me a lot in return.

At Langley, I was part of the DEVELOP program, which does research on Earth Science projects. It was both a fun filled and knowledgeable experience.

I learned about DEVELOP from one of my friends in college. We were about to graduate from Penn State in meteorology. My friend had interned for DEVELOP the past four years, so when he told me about the program, I decided to apply, too.

2011intern: Stephen Quinn.

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Besides working on CALIPSO data, Stephen Quinn learned a few things about presenting to an audience while at NASA Langley. Credit: NASA.

I was given the opportunity to intern at Langley, where I was assigned the task of working with data from the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO). The goal of my project was to use my knowledge of meteorology and computer programming to streamline code that could run trajectories of atmospheric aerosols in an easily executable manner. Streamlining code consisted of me interpreting input and output while automating the search for meteorological data.

For a simple understanding, we began computer code written by Duncan Fairlie that traced a specific particle in the atmosphere forward and backward in time. Particles such as smoke and ash from such disasters as forest fires and volcanoes can be harmful to the environment, so understanding where particles come and go is important.

Working on a project of this nature took many hours of coding and learning new computer programs and languages. Luckily, the challenges were able to be overcome.

In addition to the science and computer aspect of what I did this summer, I was able to practice on my public speaking skills and learn how I interact with people.

Working in the DEVELOP program, I had to be part of a team. My team consisted of six people, and I was the only guy in the group. I worked with mathematicians, computer scientists and meteorologists on tools to interpret data from the CALIPSO satellite. By being part of a team, I was able to see many diverse personalities and ways of thinking.

In addition to the summer task I was given, I went on field trips to other NASA centers, Goddard Space Flight Center. I also attended lectures about what NASA did to help the Chilean miners and how NASA saved the Declaration of Independence from getting ruined. These lectures helped me explore the many applications of NASA innovation.

Being a part of the famous cafeteria flash mob was also a fun experience. A few practices were done in secret before the actual display on July 21 at 12:15.

The flash mob commemorated the last landing of the shuttle program, which took place earlier that morning.

In addition to completing my task of working on CALIPSO and having fun attending lectures and tours of the different NASA locations, I presented my research to groups, people and companies. Presenting was a little nerve wracking at first, but all of the practicing and presenting soon made it easy.

I have had many valuable experiences that have helped me throughout my life, but the knowledge and character I have gained this summer from the DEVELOP program at Langley will undoubtedly help me in my career.


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