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Lunar Lion
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Natalia Nigay

Major: Aerospace Engineering, Russian
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I received an e-mail about the enrichment experience.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

Over the summer I completed an unpaid internship with an on-campus organization called Lunar Lion. It brings together students across many technical (and non-technical) majors to design, build, and test a prototype lunar lander, in addition to conducting outreach and educational events. I worked on the structures subsystem assisting in the design and manufacturing of a new iteration of the spacecraft, and I was in charge of making a test stand for the craft, from design to manufacture. I learned a lot, made valuable connections, and hope to stay heavily involved during the academic year.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Working for Lunar Lion this summer, I learned a lot of new technical skills. I now have confidence using SolidWorks and NX Design for CAD modeling and am a proficient welder. In addition to Lunar Lion, I also took three online classes this summer. Finding a balance between work and school was challenging, especially with online classes, but I learned valuable planning and time management skills.

I wanted to get as much hands-on experience outside of the classroom as possible, and this project was one of the best ways to accomplish that.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

In March of 2017, I took a trip to Seattle as a member of Penn State's Presidential Leadership Academy. While there, we had the amazing opportunity to have dinner with two women who work for a private space company called Blue Origin. At this dinner, I discovered my dream company, and for probably the first time, I felt purpose and passion. I had a goal now and needed to work towards it, so I applied for the Lunar Lion summer internship. I wanted to get as much hands-on experience outside of the classroom as possible, and this project was one of the best ways to accomplish that. When I was notified that I was accepted onto the summer team, I was ecstatic. This enrichment experience allowed me to live and work in State College this summer pursuing my dream, and for that I am truly, deeply grateful. And though at first glance it may not seem that I will be using my liberal arts degree in the field I hope to enter one day, that is far from true. One of the beautiful things about space exploration is that it is a truly international effort. Although the United States and Russia cannot seem to agree on much, they collaborate when it comes to space. The engines used to power our rockets are Russian, as of now we can only launch to the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and American astronauts live and work with Russian cosmonauts. I believe that studying Russian will be invaluable in a career in the space industry, because we travel to the new frontier together.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes! I am a firm believer in supplementing your education with activities outside of the classroom, because it is never too soon to start applying what you learn to real projects that you can take ownership of.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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