An intern visited the James Webb Space Telescope in the clean room viewing area as a part of the scavenger hunt to orient the cohort to Goddard Space Flight Center. Credit: NASA
SCaN, intern, internship, SCaN intern project, SIP 

Qualities of the Ideal NASA Intern

By Amber Jacobson

March 29, 2018

Every year, NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program office welcomes scores of interns into their ranks. The interns don’t get coffee. They aren’t observers. These interns are paid to be innovators in their field, working alongside their mentors to provide tangible benefit to the agency and the space communications community.

At their heart, these interns are problem solvers, working to find practical solutions to real-world problems. The NASA intern, though, is much more than just a problem solver. These students are future aerospace professionals ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow, today.

What does the ideal SCaN intern look like? They’re bright young minds who are hungry, humble, ambitious, collaborative and innovative. For insight, we asked a selection of summer mentors to provide their insight into what these qualities mean to them.


“Be curious, and passionate about learning. Don't be afraid to question the experts, even if it seems stupid or obvious. Working at NASA is about doing things which have never been done. No one person has all the answers. Everyone can contribute.”- Scott Schaire, Wallops Flight Facility Near Earth Network Manager


“One of the great things about NASA, as a science-based organization, is that we’re always asking questions, wanting to discover new things. We don’t pretend to know everything. Whether it’s making a new scientific discovery, looking at new ways to reach people or realizing efficiencies in our processes, we know that we are constantly learning and growing. I think that’s what keeps us humble – knowing that’s there’s always room to be better.” - Amber Jacobson, ESC STEM Engagement and Communications Lead


“Being a NASA intern isn’t just about being intelligent, it’s about ambition. NASA interns know that future belongs to those who dream big and strive to better themselves in pursuit of their goals.” - Haleh Safavi, Space Network Engineer


“Be able to say, ‘I don’t know everything,’ and look for others to lean on. Hear other points of view and implement that knowledge. A finished product that reflects the work of many people is more dynamic and exciting than the work you can do alone. Diversity leads to innovation, and collaboration is its catalyst.” - Sandra Vilevac, ESC Instructional Designer


“NASA interns embrace the spirit of our rich legacy of innovation, embody excitement for our future capabilities, and infuse their knowledge of today’s technology into our efforts to develop tomorrow’s solutions.” - Ryan Turner, Near Earth Network Engineer

An internship with SCaN can be the proud beginning of a storied career in space communications. Some interns will be hired as contractors or public servants upon graduation from the program. Most will go on to fulfilling careers in science, technology or engineering. All will exit with NASA’s mission on their minds and in their hearts, “to reach for new heights and explore the unknown for the benefit of humankind.”