Student selected for prestigious NASA internship

20 year old Metcalfe Meteorology junior Victoria Hampton first internship is working with NASA in California. “I feel like this will open many doors for me,” said Hampton as she talks about her internship. Hampton plans to attend Grad school after getting her degree at WKU. (Jeff Brown/HERALD)

Anna Lawson

Many students eagerly search for internships to advance their career aspirations. Some joke that they are shooting for the stars. For others, however, such a statement is reality.

Victoria Hampton, a Metcalfe County junior, recently received an internship with NASA called the 2014 NASA Student Airborne Research Program. The meteorology major has had a passion for science her whole life.

“I have always had an interest in weather since I was little. I never thought of it as a career option until I arrived at WKU and learned about their awesome meteorology program,” she said. “It was then that I explored some of the meteorology classes and decided it was the path I needed to take.”

Hampton is one of only 32 other students around the country who received the opportunity.

“I never expected to received an internship as prestigious as SARP, but because I set high standards I have surprised myself with what I can accomplish,” Hampton said.

Gregory Goodrich, Hampton’s advisor and associate professor of geography and geology, told Hampton about the opportunity last semester.

“They were looking for students with strong grades and other experience,” he said. “She is someone who has always stated that she wanted to do work that is research related. She was a very good fit.”

Goodrich said the internship will last eight weeks during the summer in California. She gets to do everything that a professional researcher would do.

“It is an eight-week, all-expenses-paid program located at the University of California-Irvine. I will be conducting research and creating a project to present at the end of the program,” Hampton said. “I, along with the 31 other applicants will be responsible for generating our own research topic based on one of three areas: ocean, atmosphere, or land.”

A member of the Honors College, Hampton said she is very grateful for all the opportunities WKU has given her.

“I have been able to conduct research with one of my Meteorology professors that will later become my honors thesis,” she said.

“I have also had the opportunity to work for several departments on campus, all of which have positively impacted me as a student and as a professional.”

The NASA internship is beneficial for students in that not only do they offer hands on practice, but it also sets them apart on the job market.

“I was overwhelmed and shocked at first. NASA has always seemed out of my reach,” Hampton said. “As a small-town girl, I never imagined I would someday find myself doing research for an organization like NASA.”

David Keeling, department head of geography and geology, said internships are important for students who want to have a successful career.

“It gives them a practical exposure to the skills they need when they go out to their careers. Students have to have great communication, writing, and analytical skills,” he said. “That is why we encourage them to do it because they know what is expected of them on the job market.”

Keeling also encourages students to work closely with their advisor because the advisors usually know the most about internships. However, students can also call or visit specific agencies to see if internships are available.

“The internship gives them a foot in the door. If two people have a very similar background then the student with the internship is most likely to get the job,” he said. “While doing the internship they have an insight into jobs that would be available.”

Goodrich agrees that internships aren’t only beneficial but necessary for college students.

“The best things that students can do is to show that they have practical experience to go along with book learning,” he said. “Employers want to know that students have to ability to design a research project and carry it out. They want to know that they can do more than just sit in a classroom.”

As far as future careers, Hampton is hoping this opportunity will help her decide on a path after graduation.

“I have considered graduate school and I know being a part of SARP will open up so many doors for me in that aspect,” Hampton said.

“I have not yet decided what my ‘dream’ career is, but I know I am headed in the right direction.”