NASA has always been a part of sophomore Ashle Page’s life. Now, as double major in Polymer and Color Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, it seemed like the perfect place to search for an undergraduate internship opportunity. Once she found one, she spent her summer at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, working in the Advanced Materials and Processing Branch.
Ashle’s primary responsibilities involved researching green aerospace manufacturing and concentrating on the manufacturing process known as “spin-forming.” Spin-forming allows materials to be formed in the final shape of the product instead of constructing a multi-piece structure; this process reduces wasted material while lowering manufacturing costs. Ashle also had the opportunity to work with self-healing polymers used for military and aerospace materials, which ensure that the material can heal itself in a matter of milliseconds if punctured or torn. Though the workload was heavy, NASA made sure Ashle had a great time while she was at their facilities. She competed against fellow students and researchers in the NASA softball league and shared her research at various presentations, symposia, and Technology Day at the Virginia Air and Space Museum.
Nothing can parallel direct, hands-on experience when it comes to a summer internship. Ashle learned to appreciate that every day held the opportunity for new discoveries and realized she was contributing to solving real-world challenges, all while applying things she learned in the classroom. Though her Polymer and Color Chemistry classes helped Ashle to understand many of the chemical processes she was researching, she relished switching roles and becoming an educator through her involvement with NASA’s STEM education program. As a child, Ashle’s fascination with NASA and participation in summer camps and educational programs inspired her to pursue an engineering career, and this summer, she was able to witness her research inspiring others. Through these seminars, she realized that career development often extends past the individual and to everyone you interact with in the workplace.
Ashle wants students to remember that NC State has plenty of resources for them to use when it comes time to find a career. Networking with fellow students, professors, and industry professionals is crucial, but you should always keep in mind that the best internships often directly reflect your interests. Ashle definitely kept that in mind, and had a fantastic experience doing exactly what she always wanted to do.