Student Spends Summer at NASA

What first comes to mind when you think about a career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration? Is it astronomy? Physics? Engineering? Do you think of space explorations and astronauts? Senior Clair Anderson has given us a reason to change that. When you think of a career at NASA, think psychology.

Last May, Anderson received notice that her application had been chosen for the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Flight Project Directorate Business Internship with NASA in Greenbelt, Md. Over 6,000 national and international student applications were submitted and only 300 students were chosen.

Anderson’s dream of working at NASA formed at an early age.

“I was obsessed with space as a child and young adult,” said Anderson, “I was known for wearing a lunar module charm necklace and for my knowledge of the northern hemisphere constellations as a teen.”

Her dreams began to take shape through guidance and encouragement from psychology professor, Dr. Aris Karagiogakis.

“I felt like it was a bit of a shot in the dark, but worth a shot anyway,” claimed Karagiorgakis, “Clair is very deserving, she had the qualifications and had the training.”

Anderson’s qualifications and training seemed to stand out among hundreds of applications. Her mentor from NASA felt that she was tailored for the position — even among other applicants from Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

“As a psychology major, I never thought my dream of working for NASA would be possible,” said Anderson, “the amount of gratitude I owe Dr. Karagiorgakis for taking interest in my far-fetched goal is exponential.”

Several projects were completed during the 10-week period Anderson spent at NASA. These projects were in the area of Industrial-Organizational Psychology, which aimed towards maintaining and polishing workplace effectiveness.

“I worked with two mentors to aid workplace effectiveness through human capital, administrative, and business applications,” stated Anderson.

Research was collected on workforce trends, an internship welcome event was organized, and brainstorming on how to build diversity and leadership positions were executed. Anderson’s mentors assisted with project needs in addition to helping her reach other goals.

“Donna and Val [Anderson’s mentors] were always making certain my education and career goals were priority, ensuring that I was included and an active member in every meeting my security clearance would allow,” said Anderson.

Anderson’s security clearance also allowed her to see other aspects of the facility at NASA.

“I had an opportunity to tour GSFC [Goddard Space Flight Center] and see scientists, engineers, and other great minds in action,” said Anderson.

She even saw where satellites were built, toured a NASA clean room, and saw the duplicate model of the James Webb Telescope that is currently in construction.

“The fact that I was in the midst of a once in a lifetime experience was never forgotten,” said Anderson, adding, “even though the fast paced, high priority, environment kept me busy, seeing the NASA logo everywhere was a consistent reminder of how important the job was — it was an emblem of pride and encouragement.”

Anderson’s accomplishments will certainly have an impact on her future career and serve as an example of how diversified a chosen major can actually be.

“You can learn so many skills in different fields that you never would have thought,” Karagiorgakis commented.

Dr. Emilia Flint, Anderson’s internship advisor, agrees, “These are the types of internships we hope our students reach out for — the ones that you know will have a positive impact on their career and truly transform their life.”

A scientific poster that Anderson created summarizing her internship projects can be seen hanging in the Jonas Skywalk.