Student Co-Op Spotlight: Jackson Smith

Jackson Smith

Second year masters student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering
NASA Kennedy Space Center in Marritt Island, Florida

What is your role?

I am a materials science engineer working in both the Applied Chemistry Lab and the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations lab.

What are your day-to-day tasks?

All of my projects are related to in-situ resource utilization and sustainability. My daily tasks vary greatly since I'm working in research and development. I mainly assist with materials characterization whether that's coordinating mechanical testing with lab technicians or doing microscopy and chemical analysis myself. I also assist with any other tasks my coworkers need help with like data analysis/code writing, assembling test equipment, or running combustion reactors.

What was your favorite part?

My favorite part of working at KSC has my coworkers. Everyone I have worked with has been so nice and taught me things about all other parts of engineering. I have been able to work with and learn from electrical engineers, systems engineers, mechanical engineers, and chemical engineers.

What is something you've learned that you didn't know before starting your co-op?

I didn't know about all of the sustainability related projects that were going on within NASA. I have really enjoyed being part of something that's helping pus get to space and helping protect the environment.

How did you find your co-op?

I found my co-op through NASAs website and applying for the position on USAJobs. I am part of the Pathways program which allows me to do several work rotations at KSC while I'm In grad school and then I will be able to convert to a full time civil servant when I graduate. The is very selective program but there are also other types of NASA internships available.

If another student asked you about co-op, what would you tell them?

Don't worry about graduating a semester or year later than you originally planned. Co-op experience is infinitely more valuable than finishing school quickly.