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Apply to NASA via NIHERST

By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, January 29 2015

LIFE SUPPORT, planetary defence and skeletal responses to spaceflight are some areas for which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is seeking tech-savvy university students to participate in an internship.

NASA is the United States Government agency for civilian space exploration.

Two students, Jason Renwick and Stefan Hosein, yesterday gave an account of their recent internships.

An agreement was signed in 2012 between NIHERST and NASA to allow TT students to interact with NASA’s science and engineering workforce.

On Tuesday, NIHERST launched the local leg of NASA’s International Internship NASA I? Scheme 2005, at the Teaching and Learning Centre, University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine.

Two students of science, technology, engineering or math are sought for a four- month internship in autumn/fall at NASA’s Ames Research Centre, California.

The visiting students will work side by side with US and other foreign interns under a NASA mentor.

The programme is intensive with an emphasis on group work, teamwork, research and creativity. The content balances science and technology with issues of management, finance, and social and human issues faced by aerospace professionals.

Students take part in seminars, informal discussions, evening lectures, supervised research, group projects and visits to NASA centres and laboratories. This year’s programme runs from June 1 to August 7, and anyone interested must apply to NIHERST by a deadline of February 19.

Relating his internship as “out of this world”, Renwick recalled his new-found sense of space — intellectual, social and geographical — at the California facility. He recalled meeting students from all over the world, including India and Mexico with everyone collaborating on projects under the caring guidance of a mentor.

Recalling a workplace of staff dressed casually in slippers, jeans and tee-shirts, he related, “Everyone tried to pitch in and give me suggestions”.

With the facility located in California’s Silicon Valley, Renwick said he’d attend parties at which his fellow revellers were from Google, Microsoft and Linked In, with everyone freely chipping in their ideas and suggestions to help along each other’s projects.

He recalled other high-points to his stay such as once driving a lunar river vehicle, and witnessing 250,000 visit NASA on its open day. He said his internship has enhanced him personally and professionally, and given him a foothold into the international scientific community. His own research area had been into the life- span and deterioration of electrical capacitors.

Hosein largely echoed his colleague, saying the internship had bettered his world- view and his understanding of how different cultures function. He revelled in Silicon Valley’s culture of tech giants such as Skype, saying it was a marked contrast to subdued activity in TT. He recalled colleagues from Mexico, India, Jordan and Italy. His project had been to use algorithms to predict which alarms in a system would go off unnecessarily.

“Students should apply,” Hosein urged. “It’s a life-changing experience. You’ll never be the same.” That point was echoed by the United States Embassy Public Affairs officer, Stephen Weekes, who said that in general, the United States does change people somewhat.

NIHERST was represented at the event by board director, Rawateee Maharaj-Sharma (who gave a welcome speech on behalf of an absent chairman, Prakash Persad) and project officer, Laura Superville who gave the vote of thanks.

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