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By
Rachel Seevers
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In the past 25 years of DEVELOP, we have seen the deep impact the program can have not only on communities across the globe but also on DEVELOPers themselves as they build their capacity and grow into the leaders, educators, and ambassadors of tomorrow. As part of our anniversary activities, we are highlighting the many pathways alumni take on their career journey after DEVELOP. Here we spotlight the alumni who are currently working within the Federal government as both contractors and civil servants to illuminate the many paths taken in federal service!


Sara Lubkin

“It’s ok not to know everything starting out. It’s even ok not to know most things. You are here to learn, and you have a whole team backing you up.”
Woman with curly hair smiles for portrait

DEVELOP Time & Location: 2015 Summer at Virginia - Richmond (Participant), 2016-2018 at NASA Goddard (Participant, Project Coordination Fellow)

Project Impact: One of Sara's projects mapped suitable environments for invasive pests in order to mitigate their damage in the future, especially exacerbated by warming winter months. (link)

DEVELOP's Impact: One of the most valuable things Sara learned was how NASA data is used for decision making and the many challenges that come with accessing it. She now works on solving those challenges directly by thinking of ways to expand Earth data services to non-expert communities.

Where is she now?: After DEVELOP, Sara started working at NASA Headquarters as a support scientist for the Earth Science Data Systems Program. She then became a DAAC operations engineer at NASA’S Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) Project at Goddard Space Flight Center and has recently stepped into a new role as the manager of ESDIS’s Science Data Operations.

25th Anniversary Wishes: “Congratulations, DEVELOP! And thank you for the opportunities you’ve provided to me and so many other DEVELOPers. I can’t wait to see where you are in another 25 years.”


Tim Mayer

“DEVELOP afforded me the opportunity to accelerate my career and passionately pursue my research interests. I think DEVELOP truly excels at cultivating innovation and passion and works tirelessly to enable participants to become realized leaders.”
Man with beard smiles for portrait

DEVELOP Time & Location: 2017-2018 at Colorado - Fort Collins (Participant, Center Lead)

Project Impact: Mapped suitable habitats of invasive wetland species in order to better manage their presence and maintain biodiversity. (link)

DEVELOP's Impact: With Tim’s 5 terms as a Center Lead and 6+ terms as a Science Advisor, he says the Capacity Building Program taught him how to co-develop solutions and gave him the ability to affect change and work with other dedicated individuals- and that is why he continues to stay in the program.

Where is he now?: Tim is part of the NASA Capacity Building Program serving as the SERVIR Regional Science Coordination Lead and as a Research Scientist for the Hindu Kush Himalaya region.

25th Anniversary Wishes: "DEVELOP has afforded me the opportunity for me to accelerate my career and passionately pursue my research interests. I think DEVELOP truly excels at cultivating innovation and passion and works tirelessly to enable participants to become realized leaders.”


Sarah Trimble

“DEVELOP confirmed my hope that exciting scientific research careers exist outside academia.”
Woman with sunglasses in wavy hair smiles for portrait

DEVELOP Time & Location: 2013 Summer at NASA Langley (Participant)

Project Impact: Determined the best wine varietals to plant in Virginia, helping to shift the state's income from a dying tobacco industry towards the growing wine industry.

DEVELOP's Impact: For Sarah, DEVELOP was the first time she wrote large amounts of code. She learned a lot of skills in Python as well as coding tips and best practices from other teams at her node. “I had no idea how much I would learn about Python and coding, but I am very grateful that I did!”

Where is she now?: Sarah is a research scientist at the US Naval Research Laboratory, a position she got after her bosses saw her give a talk at a conference. She works in the Seafloor Sciences Branch where she brings remote sensing data, analysis, and research to projects within her branch.

25th Anniversary Wishes: “It has been a real joy these last ten years to see others go on to successful careers in a wide array of disciplines; some are now professors, working at NASA, in sales, the DoD, and even documentary filmmaking.”


Kara Cassano

“Most of my close friends also did DEVELOP... we all just stuck together.”
Woman in blazer poses for official portait in front of Amerian Flag

DEVELOP Time & Location: 2018-2019 at NASA Marshall (Participant)

Project Impact: Created maps of optimal wind farm suitability & created other maps studying and forecasting the endangered gopher frog’s habitat. (link)

DEVELOP's Impact: Kara made many connections while at DEVELOP, even ones that led her to peruse a graduate research assistantship at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and land her current position. Kara sees her terms with DEVELOP as a “domino effect, it got the ball rolling for me in the earth science industry.”

Where is she now?: Kara works at Teledyne Brown as a Simulation Data Manager, located back where she participated in DEVELOP at Marshall Space Flight Center!


Nirav Patel

“The applied aspect of working with Earth observation data has lent itself to me getting positions at organizations I have worked for over the past ten years.”
Man in bow-tie and blazer smiles for portrait

DEVELOP Time & Location: 2013 Summer at NASA Langley (Participant)

Project Impact: Worked on two projects studying energy and agriculture in Rwanda.

DEVELOP's Impact: DEVELOP provided valuable mentorship relationships which led Nirav to pursue a Ph.D. in Earth Systems and Geoinformation Sciences at George Mason University.

Where is he now?: After his Ph.D., Nirav continued in the remote sensing field by working as a Google Earth Engine Developer, serving in the California National Guard, and conducting research at NASA Ames Research Center. Nirav now works as a Senior Scientist and Program Manager, managing the development of remote sensing platforms, for the Defense Innovation Unit.


Amber Wittner

“You can't just learn once and be done. You have to constantly be learning.”
Woman with baby in arms crouches next to model space shuttle

DEVELOP Time & Location: 2006 Summer at NASA Ames (Participant), 2014-2015 at NASA Ames (Participant, Geoinformatics Fellow)

Project Impact: One of Amber’s projects helped the Navajo Nation better allocate water resource dollars and decide where the best places to put rain gauges were based on studied drought conditions

DEVELOP's Impact: Amber’s time with DEVELOP played a key role into her decision to become a civil servant. She also learned how to work with a variety of different team dynamics and build strong professional relationships.

Where is she now?: Amber started a new position at the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center this past summer (2023). Previously, she worked at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as a GIS Coordinator and a Geospatial Systems Architect.


Megan Buzanowicz

“There's a lot that you can that you can learn from everybody, so keep an open mind. Be willing to share.”
Three people stand in front of a science poster

DEVELOP Time & Location: 2015-2016 at NASA Langley (Participant)

Project Impact: Created a risk map for wildfires following the most destructive year in Texas’s history & set out to predict storms on the African Great Lakes (with fellow DEVELOP alum Annabel White!).

DEVELOP's Impact: One of the biggest impacts DEVELOP had on Megan was allowing her to be on a NASA campus and experience all the incredible things going on there. “Just being able to see all of the different tours, meeting all the different people- one of the biggest takeaways was that everybody at NASA really loves doing what they're doing.”

Where is she now?: Megan works at NASA Langley Research Center as a Scientific Analyst with ADNET Systems, Inc. and works on making data publicly available to end-users, just like at DEVELOP!


Want to read more about where alumni go? Visit DEVELOP alumni featuring...

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