Internship Diaries

How She Found Her Second NASA Internship

A lot of little kids dream of being an astronaut when they grow up, but what does it really mean to spend your summer working for NASA. Two-time NASA intern (and co-host of Get This Girl a Job), Katie Melbourne shares her experience doing research at NASA Goddard and how she sees astronomy research fitting into her dream of a career in science policy.

Name: Katie Melbourne

Job Title: Astrophysics Research Intern at NASA Goddard

Location: Greenbelt, Maryland

College: Yale University

Year: 2.5

Major: Astrophysics

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What are you doing this summer?

I am working on extending and improving previous analysis completed for Measurements of the Ultraviolet Spectral Characteristics of Low-mass Exoplanetary Systems (MUSCLES) collaboration. Our goal is to identify the relationship between optical and ultraviolet spectra of the smallest, dimmest, and most active types of stars, called M Dwarfs, to help support photochemical analysis of their atmospheres. The end goal is determining if these types of stellar systems harbor potentially habitable exoplanets.

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What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to work in Washington, DC to advocate for science as a government affairs agent or space policy strategist.

How did you get your internship?

I found this internship through the NASA internship website and reached out to the mentors listed on the job posting for an informational interview in November. I applied in late December, and was offered the position mid-February.

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What do you wish you had known during your internship search?

NASA releases their offers of acceptance on a rolling basis, so it is important to apply early to the opportunities that interest you. I was also considering another incredible job in a completely different field, and I was so convinced NASA would not work out that I almost committed myself to the other opportunity before hearing back from them. Moral of the story: believe in yourself, and ask for more time to decide if truly necessary before getting yourself in a sticky situation.

What does a day in the life look like?

I wake up at 5:15am and run over to the NASA campus, where I do my daily run before lifting in the campus gym. I go back to my AirBnB to shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast before driving back over to the astrophysics building. There, I code all day and write up my results (getting a head start on my thesis!). I always eat lunch with a group of other interns, and usually there is an interesting event or science colloquium in the afternoon to attend if I have time. I then go home, make dinner, and end my day with a trip into DC to see friends, make progress on my reading list, or just watch some Netflix!

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How has this job changed what you see yourself doing in the future?

Because of my experience, I now know I like astronomy research enough to pursue a PhD in this field eventually. Though I don’t know if I will go right after graduating college, I know that it is something that I would enjoy, and that would keep many doors open to me as I make my way into a science policy career!

Hello! My name is Rosana Rabines! I'm a student, stationery enthusiast, and runner constantly reorganizing my life to make the most of my college experience in Chicago.

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