National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Directors Panel

GRC Center Director All-Hands Meeting with Students

On the last day for many GRC interns, including the Space Academites, most of the work for the summer was wrapped up and many were thinking of that next step. How would they use this internship and apply it to their careers? The Center Director, Ray Lugo, wanted to make sure that the interns left Glenn with all the information they needed to make crucial next steps, so he set up a student all-hands meeting with a panel of senior management personnel who would be available for questions. The panelists started the meeting by introducing themselves and sharing how they arrived at their current positions.

  • Bryan Smith, Director of the Space Flight Systems Directorate, led the panel. He stressed the importance of building mobility, both geographic and interdisciplinary, so that one can see different angles of a problem and understand where people are coming from.
  • Dr. Marla Perez-Davis, Director of the Aeronautics Research Office, stressed taking opportunities as they arise and doing what you like to do. As a graduate from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, who has risen to the head of a major program at GRC, she knows about seizing opportunities.
  • Dr. Jih-Fen Lei, Director of the Research and Technology Directorate, discussed her journey to NASA all the way from Taiwan. Originally planning to be a professional dancer, she has found a career that allows her to “keep asking why and why not,” as well as keep dancing in her own time. She loves the world of NASA research because it allows her to explore the world through the lens of math and physics.
  • Derrick Chester, Division Chief of Mechanical and Fluid Systems in the Engineering Directorate, started at GRC right after graduation and has had a great career at GRC. He stressed the benefits of the advanced educational opportunities available at NASA.
  • Karin Bodner was the odd one out on the panel, since she had just graduated from the University of Akron and is one of the newest full-time employees at GRC. Karin is a happy graduate of the intern program at GRC; she interned in the LERCIP before doing a co-op with her current branch. She is now a full time employee.
  • Lori Pietrovoia rounded out the panel by bringing a non-engineering perspective to the table: she is the Division Chief of Human Capital Management. Lori urged the interns to vary their experiences and to take advantage of both good and bad situations as they occur, in order to prepare for future opportunities.

After the panelists’ introductions and opening advice, the floor was opened up for an extended question-and-answer period. Students asked all types of interesting questions related to their careers, such as what were the panelists’ most rewarding experiences here at NASA, how to be at the right place in the right time, how necessary is it to earn advanced degrees before joining NASA, and how do you find out what you do not know.

The panelists gave some excellent career advice, instructing the interns to figure out their own strengths and weaknesses, find a mentor, take initiative, and keep an open mind. The interns asked other questions that were more specific to NASA, such as what are the differences between NASA and private industry, how does project selection work, what types of outreach do NASA personnel do, and what is the future of NASA fundamental research.

The students were privileged to receive such high-quality answers about NASA from people at such high positions. Overall, the panel proved to be a beneficial way to end the summer, as the interns learned more about how NASA works and were given good advice for their future careers.