Humboldt State University

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Real-World Experience By Exploring the Universe - Humboldt State Now

Real-World Experience By Exploring the Universe

Two HSU students recently had internships that gave them the chance to explore the far reaches of space.

HSU students interned for the SETI Institute, which searches for life beyond Earth. (Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC)
Seniors Sean Haas and Troy Maloney spent their summer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. The internships gave them hands-on experience working and contributing to the astronomy and astrophysics fields.

The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting scientific research and educational programs relating to life in our universe. SETI is responsible for over 98 extraterrestrial intelligence projects, some in collaboration with NASA, since its start in 1984, and has contributed to astronomical advances globally.

Haas and Maloney, both Physics majors, found their time at SETI rewarding and completely different from their experiences at HSU.

Maloney, whose hometown is Sacramento, hopes to achieve a career in astronomy research. His work at SETI consisted of programming and processing images of planets orbiting stars to improve their appearance on direct imaging telescopes.

“I wanted to have an internship at SETI for a long time. I was super happy when I got it,” he recalls.

The internship taught him about the community he hopes to work with in the future, as well as other valuable research assets he did not know beforehand, such as computer skills.

Haas, a Eureka native, wants to commit his career to Astrophysics research. He has been working with Physics & Astronomy Professor Paola Rodriguez-Hidalgo for the past two years as a student researcher, and was connected with the opportunity to intern at the SETI Institute through his work.

“It was definitely a humanizing experience,” Haas says. “Growing up, aspiring to be a physicist, I put scientists on this massive pedestal.”

Haas learned how to model planet formation using math and computation skills during his time at the institute.

Haas and Maloney also participated in two overnight trips in Pescadero and Monterey, California and stargazed at the Lick Observatory just outside San Jose. They also took a tour of the NASA Ames supercomputing facility and giant wind tunnel during their time at the institute.

The SETI Institute taught Haas and Maloney much about astrophysics and has opened doors for more opportunities as well.

“Internships are really encouraged because they immerse students in their potential career fields and provide real-world experience that could help them land a job after college,” says Jessica Garcia, Media and Design Intern at the Academic and Career Advising Center.

“There are a lot of internships out there and finding the right one can be overwhelming. If you’re unsure which internships to pursue, the best thing to do is to talk to people in your department, such as advisers, or in the career center,” Garcia says.

“We were able to test drive what it’s like to have a career in the field.” says Haas.

Maloney agrees. “At school, you learn a huge range of things, but you don’t go very deep into what you will actually be working within your career,” he says. “Interning really solidified that this is what I want do as my career.”

All in all, they enjoyed their time interning and found it a helpful and humbling experience.

“If you’re in STEM and if you have the slightest inkling that research is what you want to do, then get in there and start doing it.” says Maloney.