How to Intern at NASA

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as rocket science.

Certain images come to mind when one thinks of an “internship.” To some, it conjures up memories of tears held back and the smell of roasted coffee. In fact, most people are so convinced that this is how it’s supposed to be, they resign themselves to sorting files and ordering lunch for the team. However, unless it looks fantastic on your resume, we recommend that you reach higher – like NASA high. (We would say reach for the sky but that’s just wrong in the current context, don’t you think?)

Which brings us to Savannah Bice, a NASA intern who also gathers business awards in her spare time. She pursued a finance-focused experience at Langley Research Center and as you can imagine, she certainly does not settle for simply coffee-fetching on the job.

Obviously, she won’t be going to the moon in one semester, but her ambitious internships urge us to inquire: What does a day at NASA look like? How does one apply to intern there?

Heed her advice and you too can attain the internship of your dreams.

1. What is your background?

I grew up in the suburbs of Saint Louis. My interest in finance grew when I first developed a business plan with two other teammates my senior year in high school. We competed in an international business competition and my portion of the work included the financing of the business plan. After that, my major changed to finance and economics and I haven’t looked back since.

2. Was there any sign, as a child, that you would be interested in finance or space administration?

I remember as a second grader I won an award for selling the most items in a school fundraiser, with the help of my parents of course. I also remember taking some book marks that I had made at home and selling them for 5-10 cents apiece to the students at school. I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and that drives my love for finance and competition. My parents took me to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas when I was in kindergarten. I brought home “astronaut food” to share with my kindergarten class and I thought I was the coolest kid in class.

3. Please share a bit about your internship at NASA: How did you apply and how was your interview? How does it differ from your previous financial internships?

I applied to my NASA internship in the summer of 2016. I had just registered for my 2017 spring classes for college when I got a call about potentially working for NASA. My online NASA profile had a lot of my information on it, so my interviewer knew my background and abilities before even calling me. The only big difference between interviewing for NASA and interviewing anywhere else, is that I wasn’t given much information about what I would be working on. A lot of the material is sensitive, but I knew I’d be working on drones (UAVs as they are also called) and providing a business view on the potential financial market for drones in the economy. This internship differs an incredible amount from any previous internship. I do a lot of independent work and research, I’m not number crunching all day long. I have more of a holistic scope on finance and economics while researching drones. I am certainly utilizing my finance background, but I am also learning a lot about engineering.

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4. What does a day at NASA look like?

The best part about my day is that each day is so different. Some days I am doing independent research, while other days I’m out on the field assisting with drone flights. In order to understand the market of drones, I had to understand drones themselves. What they are capable of, how they function, the strengths and weaknesses of the drones. All these topics are vital to my research. One of the best parts of my internship is being at Langley Research Center. Being surrounded by all sorts of advanced technology and a part of something bigger it is a great feeling.

5. What are some things you’re excited about right now?

Other than my NASA internship this spring, I am focusing very heavily on graduate school. I am currently comparing top business programs like Northwestern and Wharton for after my graduation in May 2018. Getting a great education is very important to me and I want to be able to take it a step further with a master’s degree. I am also currently interviewing for potential summer internships, so hopefully more exciting news soon! Note: Savannah will be joining Microsoft as an intern this summer.

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Up next for Savannah: Microsoft

6. What is one piece of advice you would give to those aspiring for success?

Success is an ongoing mission and should never be defined by wealth, awards, or social status. It is sometimes hard to feel successful, especially when you are just starting out in your career and have not even graduated yet. My advice would be to celebrate the wins, no matter how small, and learn from the losses (as quickly as possible). The harder you work, the luckier you tend to get.

7. Where do you hope your career will take you?

My vision for my future is by no means a definite one. As of right now, I aspire to be an executive of a Fortune 500 company or a founder in a start-up company. However, I am open to all possibilities. My NASA internship is a perfect example of this. It is not exactly up my alley of banking, finance, and investing. But, it’s so intriguing and it’s opened up my potential for a vastly different career. One thing that is definite is, I want to be at the top of my field (whatever it may be) and never stop expanding my potential.

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Thinking about grad school…

8. What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moment, although it is such a little event in my life, would be placing 2nd in a local business competition my junior year of high school. With that moment being almost four years ago, a lot has happened. I’ve had other greater achievements since then, however, I am pretty certain that winning 2nd place at that business competition created a whole domino effect on my career and overall life. That local business competition opened so many doors for me that I really still cannot fathom. It gave me confidence, new friendships, and new opportunities.

9. What has been your hardest moment and what have you learned from it?

My junior year in high school I struggled immensely with honors chemistry. It took me everything just to pass the class, including getting tutoring at my current university. I have always applied myself in school, so getting A’s and B’s was normal to me because I worked very hard for it. My teacher didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t understanding the material and that just resulted in me getting more and more frustrated. I learned that I had to take the challenge upon myself and seek outside help. After getting weekly tutoring from a university Dean of Science and the support of my parents, I managed to pass the class and actually understand and enjoy the material. My tutor even told me, after the struggle, that I had a clear concept of chemistry and if it hadn’t been from the poor learning experience in class, I might have actually pursued a career in it. From that point on, I have used my teachers for as much help as they will give me (even more so in college) and learned that I need to recognize when I need help and find that help myself. I do find it ironic that I am currently interning for NASA and using multiple types of sciences in my everyday life.

Some facts about Savannah:

  • Her role model is Audrey Hepburn.
  • She would describe her personal style as “Chic, but always in jeans.”
  • Her favorite snack is Rice Krispie treats.
  • An alternate occupation she may one day pursue is that of a fictional book author.

Watch Savannah explain how to land an internship at NASA:

Cover photo shot by Adelle Goldenberg for The Glam Salad ©

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