2012 NASA Academy Interns

Meet the interns:

Samira Motiwala

I am incredibly excited for this upcoming internship opportunity with the NASA Glenn Academy for Space Exploration. The Space Academy is unlike any other internship experience – students work closely together in teams for a group and individual research project, and they are exposed to the internal infrastructure of NASA after work hours on evenings and weekends. I hope to make a lot of new friends this summer and push myself out of my comfort zone. Moreover, I look forward to acquiring new skills and leadership experience in the aerospace field. I have always been passionate about space exploration, and this opportunity would cultivate my future career in the space industry.


Javier Gonzalez-Rocha

Working with NASA is a childhood dream come to fruition. I am excited about the opportunity to partake in the advancement of science. I see this internship as a vehicle to transform the theoretical knowledge I have acquired through my academic career to practical problem solving skills in a cutting-edge engineering environment. Ultimately, this will be a great spring  board experience into the pursuit of a fruitful PhD in mechanical engineering.


Steffi Valkov

NASA – I’ve had this acronym in my vocabulary since I was a young girl. Growing up, I always thought NASA was the stuff of legends; a dream to reach for and a path to follow. I dreamt of being one of the engineers or scientists of NASA that was able to create the astonishing flying machines I saw in books and television. Now, I will have a chance to be at NASA Dryden – and it feels like I am having my dream come true. I’ve held an internship at JPL before, where I was able to see the space side of the aerospace coin. I saw the devotion people have to their work and it excited me to know that I, too, could become a part of it. Now that I will be driving through the gates of Edwards Air Force Base every day, hearing and feeling the sonic booms of F-22s, and parking next to a SR-71 (it’s right there!), I realize that I will be entering a family of people who love aircraft, just like me – and it’s  got me with excited butterflies in my stomach. Finally, I can use my knowledge of Aerospace Engineering and apply theory I’ve learned in the classroom to a real-life, useful, and practical project or problem. My excitement lies in being able to take this aircraft project from cradle to grave with a team of people who have the same passion for flying things as I do – a passion to see their bird in flight.


Meagan Sung

As a mechanical engineering student who is highly interested in thermal-fluids and rocket engines, I am very excited about my upcoming experience at the NASA Propulsion Academy.  Since I hope to one day work in the field of propulsion, combustion, and/or energy, I look forward to gaining lots of valuable and fun hands-on experience through this opportunity.  In addition to learning much technical knowledge, I also eagerly await being able to conduct research with a diverse group of students from other states.


Michael McCormack

I am honored to have been selected to take part in NASA’s premier leadership, management, and policy training internship, the 2012 NASA Academy at Langley Research Center in Virginia, where I will be teaming up with a group of nine other bright students in order to help tackle large-scale challenges within the international aviation sector. Several U.S. and European government agencies are working together with a congressional mandate to update and modernize the US and global air transportation system, with many high-level policy changes and technological improvements set to be delivered in the 2025 time frame.  As many solutions within the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will involve data networking, information sharing, and computer automation, I am excited to employ the computer science skills I have developed at the University of California, Berkeley as I dive into this massive, ambitious, and exciting project.


Tanya Das

My name is Tanya Das and I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My work this summer will be to test and characterize a type II superlattice infrared (IR) focal plane array with the infrared group at JPL. I find photodetectors quite interesting, particularly their ability to harness a naturally occurring phenomenon such as light waves to detect and image parts of the world that our human eyes cannot perceive; this is just very fascinating to me.  I am thrilled that I have been given the opportunity to work on this project. The IR group at JPL is very well-respected in this field, and I still cannot believe I am going to work with them this summer and be a part of the scientific community at JPL. I am really looking forward to a summer of intense and fulfilling research, meeting some amazing fellow interns and researchers, and exploring what southern California has to offer. This should be a great summer and I can’t wait for it to begin!


Guillermo (“Willie”) Costa

The Academy program is my first foray into one of NASA’s most prestigious and challenging internship programs. Through the Aero Academy, I look forward to being challenged in new and more complex ways, because the program emphasizes leadership as well as technical proficiency in a way that is to be found nowhere else. The Academy to me is a lot like life: you’re given a task to complete and a goal to attain, but how to best accomplish the assignment is something left predominantly to your own best judgment. This instills the duality of leadership: sometimes, leadership means calling the shots and doing whatever you think is best; other times, leadership means answering the hard questions and justifying why you chose to do things a certain way. After all, one cannot have success without failure, nor can one ethically demand that others follow them if they themselves have not been forced to defend their vision. I eagerly look forward to my experience in the Academy serving as an inspiration to others, and as a reminder that one should always follow their dreams… even if it takes them a while to get started. When my time in this program has come to an end, I will return to school having been tempered in the crucible of engineering leadership. I will have been given a taste of what true responsibility means, and the Academy program will make me better prepared for life at NASA after graduation.


Ivan Lucatero

This opportunity, to be part of the NASA Aero Academy at Ames, has been a dream come true. In the rural town I grew up in, aspiring to be part of NASA was more than farfetched and I can’t believe that I have made it a reality. As a kid I didn’t know anybody who was an engineer, and had no idea what engineering was about. All that I knew was that I loved math and science and wanted to accomplish great things. Now, I am extremely excited to be working with Kurt Long in the fluid mechanics laboratory as I will get to experience what I learned in class at a top of the line facility. Fluid mechanics has been of interest to me from the point I wanted to learn how to throw a curveball in high school baseball. Another aspect that I am excited about is being able to share my experiences in outreach events after the summer. I was recently elected as president of the SHPE (Society of Hispanic Engineers) chapter in my school and am looking forward to share everything I experience this summer. I know the Academy is just a stepping stone and I am really excited to see what lies ahead.


Guadalupe Banales

Participation in the NASA Academy summer internship has been truly rewarding and exciting so far. There are so many different and amazing technologies being developed at JPL. I feel very happy that I can possibly contribute. I’m learning a lot about optics, mechanical instrumentation, and CAD design. It’s great to apply what I have learned in school and to even learn new material while working on my project. Time seems to fly by when I’m working on a problem. I feel lucky that I actually get to do engineering work instead of getting coffee and running errands for someone. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and I hope to continue learning how to be a great engineer from my awesome mentors that are filled with lots of advice from experience. By the end of summer I hope to leave my internship with more confidence, lots of knowledge, new friends, and a sense of accomplishment from completing a conceptual dual periscope mechanical design.