Week 4: People Near and Far

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Sunday, June 25, 2017


Samantha Pedek

A major aspect of doing research, and any professional experience, is meeting and interacting with people who have the same interests as you. As an undergrad, I have heard “networking is important” spiel time and time again. It is outstanding how true it is though. Any experience that you can bond with people can open doors down the road. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet so many different people throughout my undergraduate career, and I am only beginning to fully understand how fortunate I am, so I thought it would be fun to share some of my recent “small world” moments and reiterate the importance of the networking.

The first, and the most unexpected, coincidence of this summer was actually with Kristine, my fellow SPS NASA intern. We worked for the same project last summer and though we didn’t work at the same institution, we had weekly meetings and were highly aware of each other’s projects. We met twice over the past year, and it was a complete coincidence that we both ended up here. It has been absolutely wonderful being able to share and compare experiences with Kristine, and I am very glad to be here with her.

This past weekend I met with a few people that I have met through previous work experiences. Friday night I met up Kate, a teacher from the D.C. area. We met at the beginning of this year at the South Pole where we were doing work on similar projects. It was fascinating to hear about her entire experience and about adjusting back to normal life. She spent much more time at the South Pole that I did (I spent most of my time on the coast of Antarctica and stayed at the Pole for 2 days) so her experience was very different than my own. She also offered a bunch of suggestions for things to do while we are here this summer, and next week I will be helping her with an outreach event (stay tuned for more information next week!).

On Saturday, a few of us interns made it over to the Air and Space Museum. There is just so many cool exhibits there! We went on a guided tour and saw the highlights of museum. All of the planes there were the actual planes flown! Not replicas! We also saw a variety of space craft and satellites and much more. While there, we met up with a past coworker and friend of mine who is currently in the area. Sam and I met two years ago as IceCube interns at UW-River Falls (my home university). He went to Antarctica two years ago, at a different time in the season, so comparing stories and experiences was super interesting. It was great catching up with him and hearing what he has been up to. It is always super great to hear the different and interesting paths people end up on!

I have learned so much from the people around me, and I am very fortunate to know so many good people. Hearing how seemingly small choices have effected people’s lives, as well as my own, helps me grow as a person. Originally when I applied for this position I never dreamed that I would find people I already know, let alone get the opportunity to bond with so many new people. All my fellow interns here this summer are unique and diverse, and I cherish the fact that we get to learn from each other’s experiences as the weeks go on. Getting to know the wonderful people of AIP and SPS and learning about the different career paths that are available has been eye-opening. Working at NASA offers an incredible opportunity to network because so many highly experienced scientists are all in the same place at the same time.

Moral of the story: jump on opportunities to meet and connect with people, even though it might be intimidating, because you never know what you can learn!

Samantha Pedek