Summer 2021 Capacity Building Intern

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Name: Hannah Wetzel

School and Major: Virginia Tech, Environmental Science

What is a normal day as a NASA intern?

Being virtual has been the “normal” for me since last summer when I started my first term here. Of course, it hasn’t always been like this but it’s all I’ve experienced thus far. Throughout the day, I attend a lot of meetings using Microsoft Teams. Some of those meetings are tag ups where the team updates each other on projects; others are team bonding meetings; and finally there are meetings to work on projects together. Although we can’t see each other in person, everyone always has their cameras on and it feels warm and welcoming with each meeting. When I’m not in meetings, I’m working on the various projects I was assigned. I would love to experience an in-person NASA internship one day, but for now being virtual will have to do.

How did you get interested in the program?

During my senior year of high school, my biology teacher told my class about the STEM Takes Flight Program. Since I was a part of the Advance College Academy, I qualified as a sophomore in community college, as I was taking college level classes in high school. I have always dreamed of working for NASA, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to apply. About a week before my Summer 2020 internship started, I was informed that I got in and I was ecstatic. I had no idea what the Capacity Building Program was before starting my internship, but I fell in love with the work I did there. From the moment my internship ended, I knew I would reapply again for Summer 2021.

What’s your favorite part of the job so far?

Last summer, I enjoyed leading the strategy projects we had and having the opportunity to create an infographic for the Capacity Building Program. For this summer, I have really enjoyed all the wonderful people on my team, as well as the many diverse projects we work on. I think one of my favorite projects has been our Groundwork USA Summer Camp. I’ve enjoyed working with the high school students and creating data collection activities for them to do. Our team has had a lot of team bonding and I’m really glad that I’ve been able to get to know them so well this summer.

Are there any unique experiences you’ve had because of it?

As the team lead for our EOTEC DevNet project, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to attend the EOTEC DevNet Operations Planning Group meetings. Everyone there have been able to provide insight into the project and I feel lucky to be apart of it. I also enjoyed how professional development was incorporated throughout the term. Our mentors and the team all created presentations that were able to teach us something they were interested in. The networking opportunities I’ve been given has diversified my connections and I’m thankful for everyone I’ve been able to meet this summer.

Where do you go from here?

This fall, I will be a Sophomore at Virginia Tech. Originally, I planned on going into Aerospace Engineering but after my time with the Capacity Building Program, I realized I wanted to major in Environmental Science. I’d like to build up my experience with future internships, whether that be with NASA or with different organizations. After I graduate college, I would love to come work for the CBP or somewhere within NASA itself. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m excited for the path I’m going down.

Two people, wearing surgical masks, sit on a stoop. Hannah, on the left, wears a red sweater and jeans; on the right, James wears a Virginia Tech shirt. They are petting a yellow lab that sits in front of them named Derek.
Wetzel and her friend, James, meeting Derek, one of Virginia Tech’s therapy dogs. Credits: Cook Counseling Center

What do your friends have to say?

“Hannah is a collection of impressive adjectives: She’s intelligent, articulate, dedicated, hardworking, kind, respected, strong, personable, creative, dynamic and many more. Being a part of the NASA team has been an invaluable experience for her and I can’t wait to see what she holds for her bright future.”

“I think it’s amazing that Hannah was able to get her NASA internship. It’s definitely a great way to get connections and experience for later in her career.”

“Hannah is really creative, artistic, smart, and a kind of caring friend who’s always there to listen when you need her. I think that it’s incredible that she got this internship. It seems like something that’s interesting and she’s great at. I’m glad she was there last summer and that she’s been able to see how everything’s progressed since then.”

“It’s so cool that Hannah’s had the opportunity to do something so big and important two years in a row. I can really see her going somewhere from here and am excited to see where she goes next.”

“Hannah has always been there for me and she’s been someone I’ve always looked up to both academically and as a person. I think she’s going to do big things and I’m glad she’s someone who I can call my friend.”

“I’ve known Hannah for many years and it’s astounding to see her growth as a person up to now. When I heard that she got her NASA internship last summer, I was extremely proud to see her chasing her dream. Now I’m even more proud this summer as I watch her build connections and get even closer to her goals in life.”

Two people stand outside on a cloudy day underneath a leaf-adorned arbor.
Wetzel (left) and her partner, Cody, pumpkin picking at Sinkland Farms. Credits: James Whiting

What motivates you?

I’m a pretty self-driven person, but I’d say I like to follow my passions. Each and every day I work hard to be able to reach the goals that I have in life. Back in high school, I was always a part of leadership for my robotics club. It was something I was passionate about and I worked my way up from Graphic Design/Business lead to a Team Captain. Being a leader has always motivated me to do my best for my team and I always enjoyed working together with any team I’ve been apart of. I like to push myself out of my comfort zone and solve whatever problems come my way.

What are your hobbies?

Back in middle school, I decided that I wanted to teach myself how to draw. With enough practice I was able to get better at it.

A black and white pencil drawing of a girl wearing a star sweatshirt laying down, with her arms extended. She holds a string over her face with planets and moons hanging off of the string like a mobile.
One of Wetzel's drawings.

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