UCR Professor of Physics and Astronomy Bahram Mobasher | Courtesy of UCR Newsroom
UCR Professor of Physics and Astronomy Bahram Mobasher | Courtesy of UCR Newsroom

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will have 10 new interns from UCR this summer as part of a five-year research project called, “Fellowships and Internships in Extremely Large Data Sets” (FIELDS). The project aims to train minority groups that are underrepresented in the STEM fields.

UCR received a $4.5 million grant from NASA last year that will enable the 10 students to work at JPL and receive stipends. Over the next two summers, the students will receive a stipend of $6,000 for each school year. Those who continue to work with UCR faculty or JPL researchers after the two summers will receive a $3,000 stipend for the academic year.

The research project will be led by UCR Professor of Physics and Astronomy Bahram Mobasher. According to UCR Today, FIELDS is being funded by a grant created by the the 2014 Education Opportunities in NASA STEM and working toward the development of MUREP Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) centers.

This project was created with the intention of introducing and training minority students for when they enter into the STEM fields workforce. Program manager for FIELDS Reynal Guillen told UCR Today, “These internships are invaluable because they teach research skills and also teach the students how to leverage the opportunity for future career aspirations.”

Samantha Annamraju, Brandy Coats, Nelson Garcia, Jesse Mendoza, Jasmine Moreno, Sirina Nabhan, John Pham, Joshua Rubio, Sunaina Santhiveeran and Brittany Seto are the 10 students selected from UCR, and will work alongside nine students from other schools.

Physics major Nelson Garcia said, “Everyone you meet (at JPL) is so nice and approachable. You could be getting lunch and next thing you know you’re talking with someone about their work in planetary astronomy or quantum computing. Everyone has something interesting to say and it’s a great place to network.”

Brandy Coats, a student studying geology, is interested in “how the presence of life can be captured by the rock record using molecular biosignatures.” Coats will be working with Dr. Ken Williford, deputy scientist of the Mars 2020 Mission, along with Dr. Michael Tuite and four other interns. “The FIELDS program has already given me so many opportunities, simply by interning at a NASA center. Many interns return to continue research each summer and meet great people who they may not have otherwise. I’m excited to learn new material, be challenged, and eventually contribute to the exciting endeavors that NASA has to offer,” Coats said in regards to how the program has been helping her.

In addition to funding the FIELDS program, the NASA STEM grant also provides 22 high school students from the Riverside Unified School District with the opportunity to take a STEM class at UCR over the summer.