By Mandy Carr, NYAS Staff
Former New York Academy of Sciences mentee, Audrey Lee, a junior studying biomedical engineering at Columbia University, received the chance of a lifetime thanks to her mentor who encouraged her to apply for a summer internship at NASA. Audrey was selected for an internship at the Kennedy Space Center in the summer of 2018.
This NASA internship was a long time coming for Audrey. She discovered her love for space research and STEM when she attended the GOALS for Girls Summer intensive program at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, in New York.
She got goosebumps staring up at the space shuttle for the first time, but she was also filled with inspiration as she realized how many engineers, scientists and doctors collaborated on each shuttle mission. “At that moment I realized, I wanted to pursue a career in STEM,” said Audrey.
Once in college, she took “Introduction to Human Spaceflight” with former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. Since Audrey is an aspiring physician-scientist who wants to use her engineering skills, she was interested to learn about NASA developed biomedical research used in healthcare today. “I am grateful to have explored my interests because it led me to this [NASA internship],” she said.
During her internship, Audrey looked at the molecular changes in mammalian cells under simulated microgravity conditions. This meant she worked on the life sciences side of cell culture and the engineering side of working with microgravity simulators made for Earth-based research.
Audrey liked the flexibility she had while working on her project at NASA — she could take the lead on it but also consult her mentors for advice. “It was a pleasant surprise to realize that one will never work on a project alone at NASA,” she said. Audrey regularly met with her mentors, and brainstormed with other interns and experts from other labs. “This internship has motivated me in my career and opened up many new opportunities for me to explore biomedical engineering research and healthcare in my future career,” she said. During Audrey’s internship, she witnessed the announcement of NASA’s first commercial crew and foresees an increased need for healthcare providers in aerospace medicine. Audrey said, “Becoming a NASA Flight Surgeon and/or Medical Officer would be a dream job!”
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