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An Intern's Story: Doing the Math
August 14, 2013

Each June, NASA's Langley Research Center welcomes hundreds of student interns who are studying majors that lend support to NASA's mission. For the fifth year, we've presented some of their stories. Cynthia Sabonis story is the last story in the series. Sabonis was one of four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to intern at NASA Langley this summer. Fellow WPI undergrads Joseph Sperry and Bryan Manning also participated in the Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholars (LARSS) program, and Shea Bernardo interned as part of the Undergraduate Student Research Project (USRP).

Choosing a career path has been a varied journey for me.


At a young age, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in something I was passionate about. The issue was finding a way to incorporate my passions into the working field. While in my late teens, I was able to pinpoint my interests to the mathematical sciences and decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in pure mathematics and adolescent education. Pursuing that degree, I could actively pursue my passion in mathematics and share that passion with others. I had never considered the option of putting my skills to use in the industry.

While attending college, classes stressed the importance of making mathematics relevant to students by referencing direct applications of the material. In response, I started actively researching companies and agencies, reading their mission statements and looking into the new technologies being developed. I was instantly hooked by the type of environment these companies described. I knew that I wanted to pursue this vein and perhaps find a career that balanced both industry advances and sharing knowledge with students on a collegiate level.

I remembered going to air shows as a child and the number of family friends who worked at the Air Force base not far from my home. I became interested in further avionics and their mathematical applications. I decided to obtain my graduate degree in the form of a masters degree in applied mathematics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts. While working as a teaching assistant and studying for my degree at WPI, NASA Langley came to my school to recruit summer interns. I attended the information session and was immediately interested in working for NASA. I applied to the LARSS program and waited impatiently for a reply.

Shortly before the end of term, I was selected to work with Bryan Barmore of the Crew Systems and Aviation Operations Branch of the Research Directorate. I was beyond ecstatic to receive the email and could hardly wait to begin research.

I began with reading a variety of technical papers to get to know the subject matter of the department and shortly after began running simulations and analyzing data. In addition, I worked in the Air Traffic Operations Lab (ATOL) running scenarios with the department.

Working for NASA has been the most positive work and learning experiences that I have had thus far. There is a great enthusiasm for progress and a positive working atmosphere that is truly contagious. In the future, I hope that my research and endeavors will lead me back to NASA Langley.

Cynthia Sabonis
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Cynthia Sabonis
Cynthia Sabonis is a Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholars student at NASA's Langley Research Center who attends Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Image Credit: 
NASA/David C. Bowman
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Page Last Updated: August 19th, 2013
Page Editor: Joe Atkinson