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Summer 2021 Capacity Building Intern


Name: Ila White

School and Major: I just graduated from Clark University’s Advanced Degree Program with my Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations and Bachelor’s in Environmental Science with a concentration in Earth Systems Science and Studio Art.

Ila White, wearing cap and gown with a 2021 tassel, smiles to the left of the image with a blue sky and lake in the background.
White after their Master’s graduation ceremony

How do you help the Capacity Building program area?

Along with the other members of the CBP intern team, I help make NASA’s Earth observation data more accessible to the public. One of the ways I am fulfilling this mission is by working on a library of open source code that can process satellite observation data and produce useful information about water bodies. These are available at no cost, they are easy to use, and produce results in under five minutes.

What is a normal day as a NASA intern?

The day tends to start with meetings to check in with groups about the progress of our projects. Since I am working remotely, I have the luxury of sharing an office space with my rabbit, Stormy, who often attends meetings sleeping on my feet. Throughout the day there are many seminars and conferences that are made available to interns and NASA employees, so I try to attend as many as possible. At lunch, I take a break with the other CBP interns to play games while on a video call. In the afternoon, if I don’t need my two extra monitors to help display my work, I will take my laptop to work outside. I really enjoy looking at satellite imagery while outside. It gives me two very different perspectives of the Earth.

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

It has been really exciting to lead and participate in projects that will have a lasting impact on the Capacity Building Program. Even after I have left, my work will continue to aid people all around the world.

What are your hobbies?

I love making art. I particularly enjoy sketching and sewing. I am currently working on a series that combines fantasy creatures with New England wildlife identification.

Ila White, sitting on a fence with a forest scene in the background, wearing green pants, a white shirt, a green bowtie, a green felt hat, and pointed ears.
White demonstrating some products of her sewing hobby

What inspires you?

I am inspired by my loving family. My three sisters and my parents each have fantastically unique skills. I have learned so much from each of them: how to be more confident, caring, creative, and curious.

6 people, Ila White's family members, crowd into the frame of a sepia-tone photo.
White's parents and siblings in 2004. Sister Abra (top left), father George (center), mother Jennifer (top right), sister Maddie (center left), sister Mabel (bottom center), and self (bottom right).

What motivates you?

When astronauts see the Earth from space for the first time, they often experience the overview effect. This is a change in perception of the world. Borders aren’t visible and conflict between people feel less important. The Earth suddenly appears small and fragile. These emotions are replaced with a sense of home and a desire to protect it. Since I work with satellite imagery, I am often looking down at the world from space. I think I experience some form of the overview effect from the screen of my laptop.

What is your dream job?

I can’t say that I have just one dream job. I want to do what makes me happy and what I can to help the environment. At the moment, I would love to do ecological and environmental field research that could have impacts in environmental regulation and the understanding of climate change. Sometime in my life I would like to do research on the diminishing cryosphere and participate in global climate policy conferences with UNFCCC.

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