Summer Undergraduate Program
for Planetary Research
Summer Undergraduate Program for Planetary Research
- Former Interns
Pennsylvania State University
My experience with NASA’s SUPPR was incredible, and is something that I would recommend to anyone I know interested in scientific research.
When I received the email notifying me that I had been accepted to the program, I was very surprised. I had come from a very small town in Pennsylvania, and the mentor that they matched me with was from the University of California, Los Angeles. Nevertheless, I decided to take a giant step outside my comfort zone, and it was a great decision.
My mentor was extremely helpful in getting everything set up for me, and gave me materials so that I could come prepared to work. Her research was so closely aligned with my interests, and I truly enjoyed coming to work every day. In my experience, I had a very relaxed environment and did a lot of independent work. We found a good pace and, soon enough, I was making good progress toward an abstract and scientific paper. My mentor taught me how to use new plotting software and how to properly analyze the plots that I made. I was the only undergraduate intern there, so I felt very much a part of the department instead of just being from a particular program. I was able to bond and network with many members of the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences at UCLA.
In addition to working on my research, I was able to attend a conference while I was here and learned about some fields apart from my own. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do this. Also, my weekends were free, so I was able to enjoy the Los Angeles area through hiking, going to the beach, and eating a lot of good food.
This internship is very different from the rest that I applied to last year. When you apply, you don’t know where you are signing up to go. You trust that your interests will match up with a researcher somewhere around the country. I think that it is so important to take leaps of faith and to step outside your comfort zone, because it teaches you who you are and what you like to do. This has been a very positive experience for me, and I would surely do it again.
The Ohio State University
For my SUPPR project, I worked with Dr. Frank Mills from the Australian National University. I researched polysulfur reactions in the atmosphere of Venus using a computer model. I identified the reactions with the greatest impact on the model so that they can be prioritized for laboratory study. Along with Dr. Mills, I worked closely with the KINETICS modeling team at Caltech during the summer. I gained a lot of experience working with coding in IDL and python and working with a high-performance computing cluster. Both Dr. Mills and the KINETICS team were incredibly supportive of my work over the summer. I also got a lot of exposure to current research topics in planetary science and support for my career goals. I plan to go to graduate school for planetary science before a career in research, and this summer showed me how much I enjoy the field and the work!
During my SUPPR internship, I worked on testing a proxy for carbon dioxide observations in comets with Dr. Adam McKay of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and American University. My project helped me develop my computer programming skills, taught me more about cometary science, and gave me the opportunity to sit in on and contribute to remote observing sessions on a research telescope. Dr. McKay not only advised me on my project but also on my career goals and the next steps in my education. My internship was conducted remotely, but both Dr. McKay and the SUPPR program found creative ways to ensure that I had a full internship experience. I met daily with Dr. McKay, which helped me feel confident in my work and kept my research moving forward, and the SUPPR program offered multiple online seminars where I was able to get virtual tours of NASA labs and learn about the experiences of past interns after their internships. I found my time with SUPPR to be interesting, exciting, and engaging, and I know that my SUPPR experiences will help me as I move forward in my education and career!
The College of William & Mary
Through the program, I researched secondary craters on the Moon and Mercury with Dr. Kelsi Singer at the Southwest Research Institute. Dr. Singer helped me network and learn new skills without a hitch. In case it isn’t already obvious, Dr. Singer is awesome. She continuously went above and beyond in advocating for me, advising me, and helping me understand that this is truly what I want to do for the rest of my life. Through SUPPR, I accelerated my skills using software like Mathematica, ArcGIS, USGS’s Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers, Excel, etc. These skills are directly applicable to both graduate research and the workforce. I also was able to make new scientific strides in the field of impact physics (stay tuned for publication!), which is exactly what I aim to do after graduate school. Not to mention being able to attend virtual seminars from those in the field, which broadened my knowledge past my specific research topic. I cannot stress enough how much of an impact SUPPR has made on my life, my academic and career paths, and my confidence as a young, female planetary scientist that I can, in fact, “do science.”
State University of New York at Geneseo
Interning at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (remotely!) this summer was a truly incredible experience. I worked in the Advanced Laboratory for Landing Site Terrain Analysis and Reconnaissance with my mentor Dr. Matthew Golombek and his post-doc Dr. Nathan Williams. My research focus was identifying candidate landing and sample tube depot sites for the Mars Sample Return Campaign’s sample return lander and fetch rover. A campaign that, if successful, will help scientists return Martian rock and regolith samples back to Earth. I used ArcGIS Pro to map candidate sites based on terrain slope, proximity to notional rover traverse, site area, and rock, aeolian bedform, and crater abundance, and classified each site by terrain type. I also collaborated with other JPL interns to analyze the terrain surrounding notional Mars 2020 rover traverses. In addition to my research, I participated in many online seminars through Caltech and JPL, and had the opportunity to meet really inspiring scientists in the planetary science field. I’m also preparing to present a poster at this year’s virtual Geological Society of America conference on my summer research. This internship solidified what I would like to pursue as a career in the geosciences, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities I was given through the SUPPR program and at JPL.
West Chester University of Pennsylvania