Interning for the DoD


Every morning on the way to work I pass a series of sign before reaching an important one: “Prepare to Stop, Security Checkpoint Ahead.” From there everyone in our carpool flashes their government badges and we drive through into the Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi. A few minutes later we turn in at “Naval Research Laboratory” and pass another equally glaring sign that reads, “Entering US Navy Property, Authorized Personnel Only.”I swipe my badge to enter the building and from here I cannot take any pictures without a certified training (hence, no pictures in this blog, sorry!). I work at the Naval Research Laboratory for the Department of Defense at the Stennis Space Center Branch, specifically in the Ocean Sciences Division.

Nine other high school students and I were hired as eight-week interns by the SEAP (Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program). We work with a mentor during that time to complete a project before presenting our experience at the conclusion of our term through a scientific poster. Very simply, I am a web developer. My mentor created biogeochemical models of the Gulf of Mexico and as part of his current project he must create a highly-interactive and user friendly website that can display his data to the general public. This website is divided into two parts: the data processing and analysis or “back end” that my twin brother is working on and the “front end” web page that visitors will use, aka my side. The website must balance between being easy enough for anyone to be able to use while still being full of scientific information that displays both the real time data and the comparative model.

While the project is very 'ambitious' (as said by my mentor) and the work is often challenging, I do enjoy it greatly because I am learning and moving forward. Of the ten SEAP interns this summer, only three are boys, meaning that the women greatly outnumber. However, when I have to walk around by building's wing, I cannot help but notice that here the situation is reversed. The vast majority of the professionals are men. However, the most powerful person in my building (the division head) is female. Perhaps the fact that there are more girls interning means that in a few years, the gender ratio will become more balanced.

Rachel is a senior in high school and is a 2011 National Award Winner. She wrote this blog as part of the Aspirations in Computing Blog Contest.

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