BHSU student spends summer at NASA

Author: BHSU Communications/Monday, September 29, 2014/Categories: 2014

           Clair Anderson, psychology major from Rapid City, spent 10 weeks interning at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Greenbelt, Md. She created and presented this poster on the internship. The poster is on display in the Jonas Skywalk on campus.  

When Black Hills State University student Clair Anderson graduates in December she will have quite the reference on her resume.

Anderson, a psychology major from Rapid City, spent the summer working as an intern for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Greenbelt, Md.

"An internship at NASA is rare, but even rarer for a student without an engineering, biology, or physics background," said Dr. Aris Karagiorgakis, assistant professor of psychology at BHSU. "For her to get it as a psychology student really speaks to the quality of student she is, in addition to the quality of her psychology education from BHSU."

Anderson, who plans to pursue a career in industrial psychology, spent 10 weeks working as a space flights projects business intern, studying work place efficiency and developing communication strategies within her department. Anderson was one of more than 6,000 applicants for NASA internships. Just over 300 interns were offered positions.

"There were a lot of different intricacies to the internship," Anderson said. "Professionally, this gave me a little more insight into what a high priority work environment is like. Personally, it was a unique culture to be a part of. Coming from the Midwest it was unique to see how people treat different work situations."

Anderson, who struggled to find the right career path, settled into an insurance career when she was 25.

"I couldn&rsquot really find what I wanted to do," she said. "I told myself if I can&rsquot figure it out, I had to at least get a job."

While at the office, Anderson noticed she paid more attention to workplace culture and how employees responded to situations. She researched career opportunities that would allow her to study the psychological aspects of the work place and stumbled upon industrial psychology.

"It was just a perfect fit," Anderson said.

Working with NASA was always something Anderson aspired to, but with a psychology degree, she doubted would happen.

"When I was a kid I was obsessed with space," Anderson said. "I had the accurate depiction of the Northern Hemisphere on my ceiling along with glow in the dark stars in my childhood bedroom. Everyone thought I&rsquod be an astronomer."

While at NASA, Anderson dabbled in graphic design, compiled research on workforce trends and retirement analysis, and organized an internship welcome event. She also brainstormed on how to build diversity and leadership positions.

"NASA really wanted the interns to fully experience what the center had to offer," Anderson said. "Although we were there to work, there were a lot of opportunities to tour the facility. They said, &lsquoYou&rsquore here to learn. But you&rsquore also here to learn what we&rsquore all about.&rsquo It was nice to have such support from the center."

Anderson saw where satellites were built, toured a NASA clean room and saw the mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is currently being constructed.

After completing the internship, Anderson created a scientific poster explaining what she learned and projects she completed over the summer. Anderson's poster is on display in the Jonas Skywalk.

"Clair is an excellent student," Karagiorgakis said. "She is always interested in learning as much as possible about everything and she is never afraid of hard work. I knew she would excel if given the opportunity, and I was truly convinced she would be the best person for the job."

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