Isabella Levine, a rising junior at Sleepy Hollow High School, has been selected from 750 applicants nationwide for the prestigious STEM Enhancement in Earth and Space Science (SEES) summer internship run through The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Space Research. (Due to the pandemic, the student internship will be all virtual in 2021.)
Ms. Levine and her peers are working with scientists and engineers to conduct authentic research from data received from NASA’s Earth observing satellites, as well as designing Mars habitats, Lunar Exploration, and robotics. Ms. Levine’s specific project is related to tracking mosquito migration, which requires hands-on work to set traps and collect data and then to input and review the data. Ultimately, this work makes the NASA satellites more accurate.
This nationally competitive program sponsored by NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium selects students who will increase their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through Earth and space education. The application process, as well as the preparation for the course, is extremely intense. In addition to an application with eight different questions, the program requires 120 hours of work over a four-week period involving reading and annotating journal articles, earning Python coding and engaging with NASA researchers. This is beyond the intern’s required school work.
Ms. Levine commented that, while there was a great deal of work, she never hesitated about engaging once accepted into the program. “This is an amazing opportunity to learn from incredible people,” she said. “I have a mentor assigned to me who is going into college and I get to attend two or three seminars each week with actual NASA scientists. I even present my findings in a group forum.”
Ms. Levine, who is also enrolled in the science research program at SHHS, had the option to pursue her work independently or with a team, and chose the latter. “I like to collaborate so I work better with a team. I enjoy the process of learning from one another.” She went on to say that she hopes that she can become a program mentor is a couple of years.
SEES is a collaborative effort of Texas Space Grant Consortium members and affiliates, NASA, and The University of Texas at Austin. Students apply for SEES and are selected competitively. The internships are organized around an aerospace or space science theme drawn from NASA’s diverse engineering and scientific research programs. The program combines the strengths of collaborators to enrich teaching and learning of STEM.