Six Students Land Research Internships with JPL
Six Occidental College students are spending the spring semester working with some of the nation's top scientists to track the evolution of stars, develop intelligent computer vision, improve fuel cell efficiency, and other innovative research projects.
The six students, who represent a variety of majors, have secured research internships with Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of the Student Independent Research Program (SIRI). Each is collaborating on a project in their particular field of interest.
Inca Dieterich '12, a biology major from Ketchum, Idaho, is working to explore the possibility of Earth's microbes contaminating other planets.
"Working at JPL has given me the opportunity to be around people who are constantly engaged in conversation," she says. "There is an ever-present sense of collaboration that allows the scientists and engineers to fuse their minds into a powerhouse for [inventing] the ideas of a century."
Simran Sangha '14, a geology major from Pasadena, is helping to map Martian lava flows and is excited about "the prospect of collaborating with so many experienced scientists and being given a chance to contribute."
Other interns are Brian Bumpas '12, a mathematics major from Pasadena; Jorge Munoz '13, a physics major from Austin, Texas; Christian Kendall '13, a chemistry major from Jenks, Okla.; and Daniel O'Connor '14, a biology major from Ithaca, N.Y.
"We're extremely pleased with our combined efforts to secure substantive opportunities for students across the science disciplines at JPL this spring," Career Development Center Director Valerie Savior says. "To see Occidental secure as many, if not more, coveted research positions among peer institutions reflects the caliber of our academic training, as well as the strengths of our students' accomplishments to date."
The SIRI program was founded by JPL in 2003 to encourage JPL scientists to mentor local college students and help them prepare for careers in science and engineering. Other participating schools include UCLA, USC, and University of La Verne.
Oxy's participation is the latest expression of the long, mutually beneficial relationship with Caltech and JPL. JPL Director Charles Elachi recently noted that Occidental "is an important pipeline for JPL, providing us with scientists, engineers, and even members of our executive leadership." More than three dozen Oxy alumni have gone on to professional careers with JPL, including Diane Evans '76, director for the Earth Science and Technology Directorate, and Michael Sander, '63, manager of the Exploration Systems and Technology Office.