2023 NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Interns
Watch short vlogs from the 2023 New Zealand Space Scholarship recipients. This programme, administered by MBIE's New Zealand Space Agency, will see five Kiwi interns travel to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, USA.
An enormous place: Celine’s first week at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Celine Jane, New Zealand Space Scholarship recipient, reflects on her first week at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). In Celine’s first week, she learnt about the niche areas of research undertaken at JPL and met a range of people working on NASA missions.
Kia ora, I'm Celine Jane. I'm from Wellington, New Zealand. And I'm studying a Masters of Engineering at Victoria University of Wellington. My first impressions of JPL have been that it's such an enormous place, both physically and also in terms of the breadth and depth of research and science and engineering that they do here.
It's just such a massive place, and so many, there's so many different areas of expertise and different missions. And it's just been overwhelming, but in a good way, I'm really excited to learn about all the different missions and all the different types of engineering and research that they're doing here.
Something that I've learnt and have found really interesting at JPL is just the really sort of niche areas of research that they do here. For example, the other day, I went to a really small little lab that focused on finding rocks and other geological items that were similar to what you'd find on Mars, so that researchers and scientists could develop tools and science around the types of rocks that they'd find on Mars. And I just thought it was really interesting. It's just something that I've never even thought thought about as a topic to research.
So it's been really interesting finding out all these different niche little areas of research and meeting everyone who works on the missions and such.
Like a theme park: Daniel’s first week at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Daniel Wrench, recipient of the Alexander J. Willoughby Fellowship under the New Zealand Space Scholarship programme, reflects on his first week at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Daniel’s first week included a tour of the JPL facilities and discovering what it’s like living in Pasadena, California.
Kia ora, my name’s Daniel. I am studying a PhD in Physics at Victoria University of Wellington. We've just finished our first week here at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.
It's been an absolutely amazing start to our time here, we got a tour of the facilities, and it's really like a theme park, all the cool things we've been able to see; the Mars Yard where they test out the rovers, the big clean room where they're building spacecraft like the Europa Clipper.
And all in all, it's just been so amazing to be shown around such an incredible world-renowned facility. In particular, what they've emphasised to us here at JPL is use it as a real networking opportunity.
So I'm really looking forward to just making all these connections with researchers at the top of their fields. And I think the career opportunities both for all of us here and what we can bring back to New Zealand. I can already see is going to be incredibly, incredibly valuable.
Living in California in the beautiful little town of Pasadena has been a awesome experience so far getting used to cars on the other side of the road. And I'm really looking forward to trying some Mexican food which they're famous for here. And kind of exploring the area, going on hikes, looking out for scorpions or other fascinating wildlife
like that we don't get back in New Zealand.
So a lot to do and we've already had such an exciting time in just the short week that we've been here so far.
Learning a lot: Leah’s first week at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Leah Albrow, New Zealand Space Scholarship recipient, reflects on her first week at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Leah’s first week saw her getting stuck into her exoplanets project and meeting scientists and other interns.
Hello, my name is Leah and I'm one of the interns here at Jet Propulsion Lab from New Zealand. I'm a student from the University of Canterbury where I study astronomy, and I'm here working on exoplanets, which is ways to detect them, and ways that we can get people to care about them.
So the first part of my project, I've been doing a bit of a literature review. So I've been reading a lot of different papers and learning things about a lot of stars that can have planets around them. And hopefully that'll be something we can publish on NASA's website and have that as a resource for people going forward.
I've been learning a lot about certain words that you can use and that you can't use to communicate effectively. And the fact that words have very different connotations in astronomy, for example, than it does in regular day-to-day life.
I've really enjoyed arriving here at JPL and meeting a lot of different scientists and engineers, and a lot of the other interns have all been really welcoming and nice. So already started making a few friends. And hopefully this weekend, we can go out and see some of LA.
Introducing Celine Jane
Celine Jane is one of 5 2023 New Zealand Space Scholarship recipients.
Celine will work on creating the capability to use a tiny piece of code (a ‘micropatch’) to fix a single software vulnerability, without requiring a system reboot, on mission-critical spacecraft. Celine is interested in using space technology to explore new horizons for humankind and innovate for the benefit of society.
Hi, I'm Celine Jane. And I'm studying a Master of Engineering at Victoria University of Wellington. At NASA JPL, I will be working on a project called assured micro patching, or AMP for short. This means I'll be working on the capability to inject like a tiny little piece of code into a satellite or a spacecraft while it's still running, rather than shutting it down and rebooting it. At NASA, I'm most looking forward to meeting top research engineers and scientists from the field, learning how they solve problems and how they go about working.
As a child, I wasn't super interested in space but I was really curious and interested in how things work. I remember at the end of high school is when they first discovered gravitational waves. And that's sort of what got me interested and thinking about how the universe works and that sort of thing. So I actually applied for the Space Scholarship in 2019, when I was in my undergrad, and I got a reasonable way through, but didn't quite make the cut. So when I saw that they were doing it again this year while I was in my postgrad, I thought, you know, I had to apply since I got so far last time, and I've grown so much since then. So I thought it was a good idea to apply.
It was really cool meeting the Administrator and the Deputy Administrator. They were really inspiring and it was really interesting to hear about their experiences at NASA and how they got to where they were.
I would say you don't have to be an engineer or a physicist. There are many different types of roles in the space industry, not just engineering and physics. You know, there's comms, there's psychology, there's biology, so if you're interested in it, you can probably apply it to the space sector.
Introducing Daniel Wrench
Daniel Wrench is the recipient of the privately-funded Alexander J. Willoughby Fellowship.
Daniel will work with a data scientist to apply neural networks, a popular machine learning algorithm used in AI, to speed up an engineering calculation called topology optimisation. This calculation involves finding the best layout of materials, given certain constraints to the design.
My name's Daniel Wrench, and I'm doing a PhD in Physics at Victoria University of Wellington. At JPL, I'll be using a popular algorithm from AI called deep learning and using that to try and speed up an engineering calculation called topology optimisation.
I'm really looking forward to just being a part of NASA at this really exciting time that we're seeing for the space industry worldwide, and getting to meet some people at the forefront of their field.
I'd say I've been very curious from a very young age and as a teenager, I started becoming
really interested in space. And when I came to university, I tried to share that passion for other students, and I helped found the New Zealand Students' Space Association. So when I was in my first year of university, and I was a part of the New Zealand Students' Space Association, I heard about the first round of the New Zealand Space Scholarships. Unfortunately, I didn't qualify and but when I finally found out that I did qualify, and I was studying space science, I knew that I had to apply for this given it was a once in a
Meeting the NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator was just an absolute dream come true. Especially receiving my NASA pin from Administrator Bill Nelson. And I made a point after the ceremony of going up to him and just saying how thankful I was for all his leadership, particularly around the Artemis Program, to return people to the moon, which I just find so inspiring.
I would say there's never been a better time to pursue a career in space right now. The industry is just growing so much even here in New Zealand, and it's such a cool industry to be a part of, to be exploring outer space and for the good of the Earth as well.
Introducing Jack Naish
Jack Naish is one of 5 2023 New Zealand Space Scholarship recipients.
Jack will work on the Exo-biology extant life surveyor (EELS) mission concept under the mentorship of Rob Royce. EELS is a robotic snake platform designed to explore englacial conduits on Earth and subsurface features on ocean worlds such as Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. Jack’s project aims to develop intelligent control algorithms to help EELS explore extreme terrain.
My name is Jack Naish, programme of study is a Master of Philosophy at the University
of Cambridge, which I'll be studying once I return from JPL.
So I heard about these scholarships just through online channels, in about August last year, and realised that was the first time I was actually eligible to apply since I first heard about them in late 2019 so I jumped at the opportunity.
Since like a year 13 physics trip to Johnson Space Center, in - it would have been - 2018 just been fascinated with space and like the amalgamation of maths and computer science and AI, definitely fascinating.
So at JPL, I will be working on the EELS project, the exobiology extant life survey. This is like a three-metre robotic snake that will be heading to one of Saturn's moons, possibly Enceladus, and I'll be working on control algorithms, with an emphasis on reinforcement learning and AI to try and get this robot to move around.
I'm most excited about the unknown, both in terms of where my work may go in the future, but also meeting the people of JPL and learning from their experience, their expertise, and then bringing that back to New Zealand.
So meeting the NASA leadership was a 'pinch me' moment honestly. I'd obviously seen loads of videos about the NASA Administrator on YouTube, social media channels, but to be there in the same room with him and hear their passion and their words was fascinating.
Yeah, so to future NASA interns and those interested, I would definitely invest time in finding an area of STEM that fascinates you, and setting yourself goals and holding yourself to them. Key
there being finding a genuine passion because then motivation and such will follow naturally.
Introducing Leah Albrow
Leah Albrow is one of 5 2023 New Zealand Space Scholarship recipients.
Leah will work on the Exoplanet Watch project at JPL. She will be responsible for conducting large-scale data analysis of exoplanet transits collected by students and amateur astronomers, in order to identify new planets or signals of orbital changes. By combining this data with hundreds of existing datasets, Leah aims to optimise the use of large telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, by reducing uncertainty around the timings of transit events.
Hi, my name's Leah Albrow. I'm a student at the University of Canterbury and I'm doing an honours degree in astronomy. When I go to NASA JPL, I'm going to be working on the Eyes on Exoplanets project and Exoplanet Watch.
One's a citizen science project where we're encouraging anyone with access to a telescope to observe exoplanet transits, so we can learn more about their transit timings and the uncertainty around that. So that we can use the James Webb Space Telescope and other large telescopes to better optimise that time. And also going to be collecting all the data sets and trying to learn more about these exoplanets like their atmospheres, and transit times, the size relative to the star, all sorts of things that we can use to try and find life.
So an exoplanet is a planet that's not in our solar system. So just not orbiting the sun. When I go to JPL, I'm really excited just to see the diversity of research that's done there and to meet some scientists who are really at the forefront of their field, and just to see the way that they work and think and approach problems. And I think I'm going to take a lot from that.
I applied to work at JPL because I was really interested in pursuing a career in science and research and I wanted to learn how to research from the best.
I've always been interested in space and astronomy, ever since I was really young. I was super interested in physics, like black holes, and all that really mind bending physical phenomena,
but also just going down to Mount John Observatory and Lake Tekapo and seeing the dark sky reserve and the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve. And that was very profound for me as a child, like just seeing how beautiful it really was.
My favorite thing about meeting the NASA leadership today was you can really tell the vision that they had for the future. They kept saying things about how we're in the golden age of space
exploration, and we're the Artemis generation. And they clearly had such hope and vision for the future of aerospace. And the way that they talked about it as that international effort is really exciting, wanting to be a scientist myself.
My biggest advice to people who want to get involved in astronomy is apply for anything even if you don't think that you're ready for it. And don't ever think that anything's too hard to learn or that something is difficult. You can learn anything. It's the mental blocks that you put for yourself that stop you from being able to do it.
Introducing Michaela Dobson
Michaela Dobson is one of 5 2023 New Zealand Space Scholarship recipients.
Michaela will work in the Astro biogeochemistry lab with Dr Michael Tuite looking at a fossilised hydrothermal/hot spring system that was outflowing into a lake in Nevada. Michaela will geologically map the environment and undertake laboratory work on collected samples to investigate how this system formed. This will inform the Mars 2020 team on where to search for life in Jezero Crater if Perseverance comes across hot spring deposits.
Kia ora koutou, ko Michaela toku ingoa. Hi everyone, I'm Michaela and I am a PhD student at Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland and I study a PhD in geology, which looks at the oldest evidence of life in the geologic record, and how we can apply this to looking for potential life on Mars.
So at NASA JPL, my internship will be looking at a fossilised hydrothermal system, and how we can apply that to look for potential life on Mars. So I'm really excited for this internship because I want to undertake the opportunity to go over to one of the leading research facilities in the world for space science, and learn some really valuable skills that I can then bring back to New Zealand and help grow our space sector. What I am expecting to get from this internship is really valuable skills and connections.
I want to pursue academia and I'm really passionate about getting students and particularly young
women involved in STEM. So I'm hoping that this internship will allow me to create really valuable connections and networks, so that I can help be a role model and then provide the opportunities for the next generation coming through in New Zealand.
So today, we met the NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator. And it was an amazing opportunity, I actually was really lucky to have a one-on-one conversation with Pam afterwards, who's the Deputy NASA Administrator and she had some really valuable advice and particularly around what it's like being a woman in the space sector. And she said that she finds everyone at JPL, especially the female network are really inclusive and really there to help build each other
up and create this really lovely environment for females coming through STEM.
So I found out about this internship opportunity online. So I knew about it previously from other
years of the internship. And I thought that where I am at the moment with my PhD and what I'm studying, it was the perfect time for me to apply for the internship.
Yeah, so I've always been interested in space. What I really love about New Zealand is that we have one of the best dark skies in the world, even in our biggest city, Tāmaki Makaurau, you can still see space at night. So it's really great that space is that one thing in New Zealand that can actually connect all of us together and get us really passionate about science.
So I'm actually really grateful that I was selected this year as the first New Zealand geology student to be selected for NASA internship, which has predominantly been for
engineering and astronomy students. And I think it's really great to see this diversification and students selected because when it comes to space and the space sector, there is a lot of opportunities for a wide range of people from a bunch of different backgrounds. And if we want to
be going out into space and finding evidence of life, we actually need to be able to have people from a broad range of backgrounds to answer these big questions.