Earth

Each year NASA searches out the brightest stars -- minority students with the potential to help put a person on Mars or design an instrument to unlock the secrets of Earth's climate.

This summer, a distinguished group of undergraduate and graduate students interested in careers in engineering, science and math is gaining real-world, hands-on experience, as part of the Minority Initiatives Intern program underway at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.

"It's great that I can apply what I have learned to actual space flight and research projects," said Terrell Finch, a graduate student studying mechanical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. "I've always wanted to work for NASA and this program has provided me with the opportunity to follow my dream."

The interns, all recipients of NASA scholarships or JPL -- sponsored fellowships from historically black colleges and universities and institutions that serve Hispanic and Tribal communities, work full-time alongside supervisors on a variety of projects consistent with their academic majors. This year's interns will assist with projects involving atmospheric chemistry, thermal properties of metals, online libraries and space mission software systems.

"The program supports one of NASA's goals," said Lisa Campbell, program coordinator of JPL's Office of Educational Affairs Minority Initiatives, "to provide information, experiences and research opportunities and to support the enhancement of knowledge and skills in the areas of science, mathematics and technology for underrepresented minority students."

In addition to their full-time work schedule, the interns attend weekly seminars and participate in recreational activities. Near the end of the program they take part in a career fair and are required to formally present their work and research.

Established in 1989, the program has provided hundreds of students with opportunities to network and experience the latest advancements in science and technology. This year's 18 interns come from Morehouse College, Georgia Institute of Technology and Spelman College, all in Atlanta; Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee; Tuskegee University in Alabama; University of South Florida, Tampa; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro and the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. Pictures of the students can be viewed at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/pictures/miistudents/

Managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology, JPL is the lead U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system.


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