Spacing out at JPL

By Allison Hamburger

Monica Chen ’10 worked as an intern at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena this summer through the JPL Space Summer High School Internship (SpaceSHIP)Program.

Chen helped the Soil Moisture Active Passive project and the Mars Science Laboratory, specifically the SMAP & MSL System Cabling Design & Implementation. MSL, Chen explained, focuses on the NASA rover expected to go to Mars in 2011. SMAP looks at soil’s moisture in different states in order to further understand the connections between the water, carbon, and energy cycles.

Each day at 7 a.m., Chen was assigned to work on one of a few different projects. Some of Chen’s responsibilities as an intern were to create diagrams and designs for MSL as well as massing cables and cable harnesses, during which Chen worked hands-on with mass properties engineers.

“During my eight weeks working at JPL, I was treated like an employee and was able to get a sense of what it would be like if I became an engineer,” Chen said.

As an intern, Chen participated in other organized activities as a part of the program as well. Interns went on field trips, visiting locations such as the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex.

During this outing, the SpaceSHIP participants learned about the antennas used to track and communicate with space missions.

As a conclusion to the internship, Chen and the other interns were required to research and write a report, which included a 15-minute presentation to their fellow students and some JPL employees.

Chen came across the opportunity on the internet and decided to pursue it due to her strong interest in science.

Since the program accepts only about 20 high school students out of a couple hundred applicants, the application process was extensive, and included an essay, teacher references, and a transcript submission.

Additionally, Chen was asked for a brief phone interview with a JPL employee after making it through the first round of applying.

“I wanted to do something science-related and working at JPL was an amazing opportunity,” she said, “I couldn’t have hoped for anything better.”