Internship Spotlight – Alex Stoken, NASA

Eller PDC Coordinator Student Stories

Alex Stoken is majoring in Physics, Economics, and Mathematics. He will be graduating in the spring of 2019. This past summer, he interned as a Data Science Intern for NASA in Washington, D.C..

How did you get this internship? I got this internship through an online application, followed by a video call interview. The application consisted of some brief essays, a resume, and a letter of recommendation.

What was a typical day like? Each morning would start with getting a handle on the next step of the project and catching up with email and other communications. Then, my team would meet for a daily stand up, where we’d discuss progress and questions on our respective projects. After that, I would typically have the rest of the day to work on my project – writing code and prototyping quickly. Occasionally, meetings with other departments who were interested in projects or intern events would pop up as well.

What was your favorite part of the experience? Interning for NASA was a fantastic experience – everyone there truly loves the space program and works hard for mission success. It always felt as if my contributions were valued and my insight was accepted. Being surrounded by all of the history (and the new and exciting experiments) happening all around me made each day interesting.

If you worked on a big project, please describe it below: I worked on a virtual reality data visualization platform for highly connected network (graph) datasets. The goal was to use the added spacial dimension and immersive VR experience of better understand and gain insight from data.

What did you find most challenging about your internship? The most challenging aspect of the internship was developing my project. The project was mostly independent, and a prototype built from the ground up. This was my first experience building something from scratch, and I had to learn a lot very quickly to become proficient enough to advance my project.

What advice do you have for other students looking for a similar internship? NASA, despite being a very science and engineering focused agency, has a variety of business roles, especially at their headquarters in DC. An expressed and true passion for NASA’s work will go a long way – NASA is full of people who love to be there and believe in the mission at hand.

How did Eller prepare you for your internship? I worked in NASA’s business office – Eller prepared me for much of the corporate feel and professionalism expected there.

Did your internship employer provide housing or transportation assistance? No, my employer did not provide any housing or transportation assistance.