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Cal State L.A. partners with JPL to offer SpaceSHIP research training

August 11, 2014

Cal State L.A. recently hosted more than 20 high-achieving teens from the Los Angeles area as part of the 2014 Summer High School Internship Program (SpaceSHIP), sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology.

This was the first time that the University Library partnered with JPL on this program for select LAUSD high school students with a 3.0 GPA or above, and provided a training session focused on how to conduct literature research. This collaborative effort also represents one of many partnerships that underscores the University's commitment to engagement, service and the public good.

The 8-week JPL internship program is designed to introduce young students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and strives to provide them with enhanced research skills.

 “The Jet Propulsion Laboratory was very fortunate to be able to partner with Cal State L.A. Not only did we have the enrichment activities on campus at the start of the internship and a marvelous culminating event at the end, but Cal State L.A.’s willingness to provide stipend services to the students meant that we had 26 interns instead of 20 as we had anticipated,” said David Seidel, deputy education director at JPL. “The Kennedy Library team members were great partners and colleagues.”

Conducting literature research

In June, the group of top-performing students was presented basic tips on using critical thinking when conducting literature research by Jayati Chaudhuri, an instruction and reference librarian at Cal State L.A.

“They were taught to evaluate variety of sources in order to access relevant information and guided on how to find credible information by using different subject specific databases,” said Chaudhuri.

During their Cal State L.A. visit, the high schoolers were also able to tour the campus and to experience a college atmosphere.

Honoring students’ presentation

SpaceSHIP outstanding student presentersWith specifically-assigned projects, the student interns were all able to work in a technical environment and expand their computer skills under the guidance of NASA's science, engineering and technical professionals.

This year, JPL recognized two students with The Sister Clarice Lolich Outstanding Student Presentation Award 2014 for their final presentation titled "Mission Visualizations Using Cosmographia.”

Michelle Park of Bravo Medical Magnet and Farhan Alam of UCLA Community High School (pictured with JPL representatives and Alice Kawakami on far right) were tasked to work on a project that is described as “helping engineers and researchers in seeing exactly how planetary spacecraft fly through the solar system and near planets and moons.”

Culminating program

To conclude the SpaceSHIP program, the student interns, their parents, and mentors were invited to a luncheon at Cal State L.A.’s Golden Eagle Ballroom.

University Librarian Alice Kawakami presented the opening remarks while Seidel conveyed what JPL as well as the internships are all about and congratulated the high school students for doing a great and respectable job.

Program participants and guests also listened to round-robin presentations on the students' final projects, which ranged from developing procedures for software testing to updating models for a future spacecraft's flight path.

"The partnership proved to be a wonderful opportunity for all involved,” said Kawakami. “It was great to hear the students’ enthusiasm in describing their work and feel the pride of their parents and mentors. We look forward to collaborating with JPL in the future in preparing and exposing students early on to careers in STEM.”


Working for California: California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles’ civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 235,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds—reflect the city’s dynamic mix of populations. Six Colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to the Honors College for high-achieving students. Programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include an NEH-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a forensic science program, housed in the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center.