selenintech@hotmail.com

Interview With Caroline Choi

Hello everyone! Today im doing an interview with a amazing high school girl in stem Caroline! And im really so proud of what she accomplished at this age. So lets get to know her better! You can find her social adress at the end of the interview!!

1) Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Caroline Choi and I’m a high schooler in the Bay Area. I live on an island off the coast of San Francisco, California. On my free time, you can find me listening to the podcast ‘Planet Money’, watching ‘Veep’ on HBO or fencing (I’m the team captain and assistant coach at my fencing club!). I’m also super passionate about the environment and have received awards for my work in combating the climate crisis. As part of the non-profit CASA, I tackle government policies and encourage everything from reusable boba tea containers to compost bins. My other love is computer science – I’m a writer for the open-source coding website Alligator.io and have worked on projects with UC Berkeley SWE and the NCWIT, #BuiltByGirls and Kode With Klossy communities.

2) How did it all start for you? How did you get an internship at NASA? Any tips?

My coding journey started with a program at UC Berkeley hosted and funded by the Society of Women Engineers. Although I initially signed up because of the name-brand (go Bears!), I quickly fell in love with Arduino Unos, algorithms, and programming. My time with UC Berkeley’s SWE encouraged me to apply to Kode With Klossy, where I was met with a supportive sisterhood of coders and inspired to be openly excited about CS. 

I found the NASA SEES internship program via a Google search. There are 5-6 essay questions, a letter of recommendation, and a video to be filmed. The applications are vetted by numerous high school teachers, then the scientists you’ll be working with. My main advice is to display your passion for STEM, but also your interest in activities outside of STEM. What makes you unique? Stand out by showing your individuality. 

3) How do you keep yourself motivated?

I keep myself motivated by surrounding myself with people that believe in everything I do. It’s so, so, important to be with the right people. 

4) What is it feel like to do an internship in NASA?

It’s intimidating heading into an internship in NASA, but by the end of my stint there, I realized that everyone suffers from insecurities and Imposter Syndrome, regardless of your resume or your experience. It’s very inspiring working with scientists and PhDs who have worked on amazing projects, some of which have gone to space. That said, one thing to keep in mind is that those same scientists and PhDs are just people, just like you. They cuss. They have families. They eat burritos. They stutter in front of large crowds. Don’t be intimidated, but treat everyone with respect.

5) Could you tell us how is your regular day looks like?

A regular day at my NASA SEES internship begins with all interns convening to take a bus to the UT Austin Center for Space Research. Once we’re there, we have breakfast, then head into the auditorium for one or two lectures delivered by various scientists and engineers. After a catered lunch, we typically jump into 3-5 hours of project work. Interns split into our respective teams and meet with project mentors to review our progress and set goals for the day. Around five or six, all interns bus back to our dorms at UT Austin. We’re given leisure time to walk around and get dinner. Normally, project groups will meet after dinner to check up on their projects and try debugging problems before work the next day. I’ll normally go to sleep at midnight after watching movies, drinking boba, and coding. 

6) What are you doing in your internship? What projects you are involved in? Can you tell us about it?

I’m working on the MAGIC Flood Response team. Our project is using satellite data and integrating GIS technology to improve the emergency response system within Texas. The website we’ve created here (http://agw-prim-green2.csr.utexas.edu/sees2019/) will be implemented by emergency responders in rescuing people lost in heavily flooded areas and running flood extent models. This is the first time that two Javascript mapping APIs have been combined into one platform, so it’s awesome to see our application running. Our project mentor wasn’t even sure that it would be possible. 

7) What do you like most about your internship?

I definitely love the people most! I’ve made some incredible lifelong friends who share the same passions as me. So many inside jokes have been created and referenced to. 

8) Where do you see yourself after ten years and what do you want to achieve in ten years?

I’m going to be completely honest and say I don’t know where I see myself in ten years. I’d like to get into college first. I believe that, once there, I’ll have time to explore different career paths and find my true passion. So my real answer? I just want to be satisfied with what I have done after ten years.

9)What is your favorite thing to do for your self-care?

Self-care is super important to me, especially after I experienced burn-out during my previous school year. Yoga, listening to music (The Beatles!), playing the guitar, going running, and watching my favourite TV shows are some of the ways I implement self-care. Most important is relaxing during your self-care time – there’s no need to feel guilty when taking a break. If you’re more rested, you’ll be more prepared to face tasks.

10)How do you keep yourself calm after a long and bad day? What is your advice on this?

It’s super hard sitting in your seat and coding for 3-5 hours straight. Take breaks. Get up and eat. Go to the bathroom! Drink water – stay hydrated. If you’re encountering bugs in your code and if nothing is compiling, go take a walk. Sometimes my best coding solutions will come when I’m in the shower or watching TV. Let the problem laze in your brain. My project mentor once told me that “Nothing ruins your ego like a code compiler”. This is so true. Stay humble and always be open to learning. 

11) Which path do you suggest to the engineering students wants to do an internship at NASA?

Continue learning. NASA astronauts, NASA engineers, never stop learning. And on top of that, they learn about subjects that they like. If you force yourself to study a subject you’re not interested in, you’re bound to burn-out. Additionally, make try to be pretty well-rounded. Sometimes it’s not all about just CS or just physics or just mathematics. Combine computer science with art, learn both quantum physics and music, study geology and also wearable tech.  

12)Which movies/tv-series/podcasts/books etc. do you recommend for the girls in STEM?

Hidden Figures is the obvious recommendation, but it’s seriously a great movie, as well as immensely inspiring. On top of that, I’d recommend the movie Unicorn Store. It isn’t a STEM-focused film, but I love its straightforward message and wholesome quality. A podcast I’d recommend is “Planet Money”, due to its thorough content on the global economy and niche monetary issues. Finally, read Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang for some mind-boggling philosophical science. 

Leave a Reply