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Transcript: Prepare to Launch: Internships @ JPL

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My name is Alyx Stevens, I'm 21 years old and an astronomy research assistant here at JPL. I went to the University of Texas in Austin and I studied astronomy.

JPL offers a wide variety of things that you can get into while you're here as an intern. I've been on all these tours with people in my internship group. Instead of just staying in my office, I can go and look at projects that deal with the rover, projects that deal with you know, basically creating robots. I was also privileged to watch Endeavour fly over, which was really interesting. Everyone at JPL was so excited about it. I've also been able to go to research talks in astronomy, stuff that I'm really familiar with that I can use in my project to stuff that's considered geophysical, theoretical modeling that was something that I had no idea about but was really interesting to learn about.

Here at JPL, I'm basically working on stellar evolution. What we're looking at is seeing how dying stars change from spherical shapes to these dazzling planetary nebula, A-symmetrical kind of blob shapes.

What I'm working on is creating computer simulations to model the spectra that I observe to see if I can detect the binary companion.

We basically know how stars start from the beginning to how they end, but this very last stage is kind of a mystery. We don't know how it's going from one shape to the other, why it's doing this, how it's interacting with it's environment and so basically discovering this little missing link will pretty much complete the stellar evolution chain.

All the knowledge that you need for your internship, you pull from a variety of sources. You learn stuff in school that you will retain and that you use here and working with a mentor is really a two-way street, you know. He teaches me things and I teach him things. And so I'm always learning constantly from him and taking these concepts. If I discover something different in my experiment that's kind of an interesting result, we'll go through and talk it over and basically figure out what's going on.

My advice would be to always follow your dream no matter how far-fetched it may seem. So maybe I was a little girl and I just wanted to talk to aliens and that's all I wanted to do. And that little girl decided that she wanted to be an astronaut. She decided to get into math and science. And that lead me to pursue a degree in astronomy. And this degree has lead me to research and research has basically landed me here at JPL.

So maybe I'm not talking to aliens, but you know I really like where I ended up and I'm very proud of myself and happy with how everything turned out.

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