For those eager to explore the dynamic world of science and technology, internships hold the key to fueling exploration and fostering innovation. Internships provide practical real-world experience and foster application-oriented learning - both things that can set you apart from your peers. They also help you develop your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. If the internship is prestigious, it can help your resume stand out and open doors to future career opportunities as well.
One promising option in this regard is the STEM Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) Summer High School Intern Program, hosted by the UT Austin Center for Space Research in collaboration with the Texas Space Grant Consortium and funded by NASA. This program centers around projects spanning technology, earth and space research, climate research, and mission design.
If you're a high school student passionate about these fields, the NASA and UT Austin's SEES internship provides a great chance to gain firsthand experience at one of the most prestigious government bodies for aviation and aerospace engineering.
You can also check out other internships in engineering here.
What is the NASA and UT Austin's SEES Internship?
The NASA and UT Austin's SEES Internship, in partnership with the Texas Space Grant Consortium, offers a remarkable STEM opportunity for high school students across the States. This competitive internship is designed for high school students passionate about aviation or engineering during the program, you will be expected to collaborate with leading scientists and engineers on various tasks, including data visualization and analysis. This unique blend of theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience provides interns with a glimpse of NASA research, encompassing field studies and data interpretation.
Is the NASA and UT Austin's SEES Internship prestigious?
Yes, the NASA and UT Austin's SEES Internship is prestigious and highly competitive. With over 1,100 annual applications and 260 acceptances in 2022, the acceptance rate is around 23%. What’s more, the SEES program can accommodate only around 50 students on-site, with the rest interning virtually, which puts the on-site internship acceptance rate between 4-5%. Additionally, being fully funded by NASA adds to the internship’s prestige, offering exceptional opportunities for selected students in the STEM field.
Internship Details, Structures, and Timelines
Here's an overview of the program's structure, along with some of the project themes available:
The NASA and UT Austin’s SEES Internship comprises three key phases:
1. Online Learning Modules (May 1 - June 25): Before the on-site experience, interns complete online coursework, including Earth and Space Distance Learning Modules and optional Python Distance Learning Modules, based on their chosen projects. You can choose to mention this coursework and your learning outcomes on your resume, as well as in your admissions essay. Admissions officers are looking for students who go the extra mile to study topics and learn concepts that fall outside their high school curriculum, which goes to show your motivation and dedication.
2. Remote Project Work (June 25 - July 7): Interns engage in remote project work under the guidance of mentors. They participate in project-specific online activities and collaborate with experts. These projects can be a great addition to your resume, and if you have a great working relationship with your mentors, you can even ask them for a recommendation letter for your college applications.
3. On-Site Residential Program (July 8 - July 22): The core of the internship involves a two-week residential program at the University of Texas Center for Space Research in Austin, Texas. Participants receive accommodations, meals, and local transportation. Experienced chaperones, such as professors and graduate students, provide support and guidance throughout their stay. The on-site internship is especially prestigious, with an acceptance rate of only 4-5%, making it an excellent program to put on your resume. You can also talk about your experience and takeaways from the on-site program in your admissions essay.
Virtual Projects (June 25 - July 22): Certain projects offer virtual participation options, allowing students to engage remotely.
SEES Virtual Science Symposium (July 24 - July 26): The program culminates with participants sharing their research findings at the Virtual SEES Science Symposium.
Application deadline: February 20, 2023
Recommendation forms deadline: March 1, 2023
Acceptance notifications are typically sent by May 1, 2023
The SEES Internship offers diverse project themes, allowing students to explore various STEM disciplines. Some project themes include:
Astronomy – Galaxy Classification
Measuring Environmental Changes with Altimetry
Weighing Where the Water Goes
Aerospace Engineering – SO2 Satellite
Mars Rover Resource Utilization
Moon Exploration and Habitation
Eligibility and Selection Process
High school Sophomores and Juniors (rising Juniors and Seniors) aged 16 by July 1, 2023, are eligible to apply. They should have a keen interest in STEM subjects and be US citizens. Do note that prior onsite SEES internship experience disqualifies applicants.
Here’s what the application for 2023 included:
Online Application with Essay Questions (Deadline: Not specified): Applicants are required to complete an online application with essay questions. Among other things, you can describe your academic and life experiences in STEM, positive extracurricular activities, current academic path, and career plans. You can also explain how the SEES internship will impact your future plans. However, you are not limited to these topics.
Submission of Introduction Video (Deadline: February 20, 2023): Applicants must create a short introduction video introducing themselves, their origin, and expressing their interest in becoming a NASA high school intern. The video should be uploaded to a video hosting site (e.g., YouTube) as an unlisted video, and the video link should be added to the online application.
Submission of Transcript/Report Card (Deadline: February 20, 2023)
Submission of NASA Media Release (Deadline: February 20, 2023)
Recommendation (Deadline: March 1, 2023): Applicants must provide the name and email address of a teacher, counselor, youth leader, or principal who will submit a Recommendation Form on their behalf. This form is not a letter but a specific form to be completed by the recommender.
The selection process involves a thorough evaluation of these components to determine which students are eligible and well-suited for the prestigious NASA and UT Austin's SEES Internship program.
Pros and Cons
Before submitting your application for the NASA and UT Austin’s SEES internship, take some time to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of applying and participating:
You will receive guidance from industry experts: You'll be working closely with seasoned scientists or business leaders who have made significant contributions to STEM fields. Their expertise and guidance will be instrumental in your journey.
You can make the most out of SEES’ networking opportunities: Collaborating with industry leaders and participating in workshops will connect you with influential figures in STEM. Interns have the chance to build strong bonds with their mentors, fostering relationships that can impact future applications and recommendations. This exposure can potentially open doors for your future education and career in aerospace engineering or aviation.
You will have enhanced career clarity: Beyond the internship itself, you stand a chance to gain insights into various STEM career paths. This understanding will develop from your internship tasks and observing your mentor(s) and colleagues in action.
You will get real-world STEM experience: Engaging in hands-on projects alongside mentors at the University of Texas Center for Space Research in Austin, Texas, will equip you with practical experience (like field investigations) that will prove valuable throughout your professional journey. Past projects include GLOBE Mosquito Mapping and exploring the science of Air Quality using different educational resources like Purple Air, Center for Disease Control, and GLOBE, and investigation of the Urban Heat Island Effect (UHIE) in local environments and globally.
You will have a profile boost: Getting into SEES is an achievement in itself, and can work very well on your resume. Mentioning your experience on your profile showcases your expertise, dedication, and contributions to STEM. Just like highlighting a job on your resume, you can emphasize the specific project you worked on during the internship, your key accomplishments, and any recognition from your mentor.
You’ll be exposed to a diverse range of opportunities: The internship offers a variety of project themes to choose from. Whether your interest lies in earth and space research, climate research, mission design, or technology, you can select the area that resonates with you.
You’ll have the opportunity to conduct rigorous research: Interns contribute to research projects, which they must present at the SEES Virtual Science Symposium. You may even get the chance to publish reports, articles, or analyses, gaining valuable writing experience and establishing yourself as a published author.
Demanding Nature: The NASA and UT Austin’s SEES internship is designed to closely mirror real-world job demands, making it quite intensive. Interns are expected to commit 10 to 20 hours each week to the program, which can be demanding for students juggling multiple jobs or taking summer courses. The key lies in sticking to your schedule and concentrating on your tasks, whether you're at school or in the lab.
Limited In-Person Opportunities: Among the people usually accepted into the internship, only around 50-100 are offered an on-campus, in-person spot. The rest of the students must work virtually, which can limit the benefits or the full experience of the internship.
Tips and resources to help you stand out
Here are a few tips and resources you can keep in mind while working on your application:
Highlight Your STEM Experiences: SEES values a diverse range of STEM experiences. Showcase past experiences that demonstrate your teamwork and STEM skills. Whether it's science club projects, robotics competitions, or coding projects, share what you've been a part of.
Craft a Strong Personal Statement: Share your STEM journey, pivotal moments, and what fuels your passion. Explain what you hope to gain from the SEES internship and how you plan to contribute in the future. Be sincere and enthusiastic. Don't worry if you have limited local STEM opportunities. Use your application to explain what you've been able to engage with and why you're passionate about STEM despite any constraints. SEES understands that your circumstances can be a part of your journey.
Showcase Your Academic Achievements: Mention advanced courses you've taken and any programming or software skills you possess. These demonstrate your commitment to STEM learning and can set you apart.
Create an engaging introduction video: Your 3-5 minute video is your chance to make a memorable impression. Introduce yourself, share your background, and express why you're eager to be a NASA intern. Be creative and unique in your presentation. Several past interns have made their introduction videos public for future applicants to refer to, so you can watch these examples on YouTube for inspiration.
Work on STEM activities outside of school: Join STEM-related clubs and organizations at your school to expand your knowledge and network with like-minded students. Seek out projects, science fairs, or engineering competitions to gain hands-on experience. NASA's Artemis Student Challenges are excellent opportunities. Involvement outside of coursework demonstrates your passion.
Research NASA’s history: Learn about NASA's history, missions, and projects. Familiarize yourself with the center you're applying to. Demonstrating this knowledge in your essay or video can leave a lasting impression.
A Bonus Tip From 2018 Interns Phoebe, Lisa, Sofia, and Katie:
Have a parent or teacher review your application essay and video to ensure they are well-written and represent your authentic self. Be detailed, and don't try to fit a specific mold; instead, showcase who you are and where you are in your STEM journey. SEES values both experienced and aspiring STEM enthusiasts.
Remember that NASA and UT Austin's SEES internship values a diverse range of applicants, from those with extensive STEM experience to those with a strong desire to explore. Embrace your uniqueness and demonstrate your passion for STEM in your application.
The NASA and UT Austin’s SEES internship offers you a unique pathway to explore aviation and engineering in STEM in a hands-on manner. It’s a chance to gain some real-world experience and set your course towards a future in these fields.
If you are passionate about research in aerospace engineering and aviation, then you could consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.
Image Source: SEES logo