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NASA Capacity Building program area design intern, communications design student at Parsons School of Design

Jessica Sheaves
Earth Applied Sciences Editor

The Capacity Building program area is excited to introduce our team of five interns who have been working with us since last fall and will continue this spring. They are working with the Program to build their technical and professional skill sets while bringing their enthusiasm and new ideas to the program. Each of our interns created their own feature profiles, which we will be sharing over the next few weeks. Keep reading to learn more about Chang and her role on the intern team. 

Why NASA? 

I’ve always been interested in physics and astronomy. It has been my childhood dream to work at NASA, so accepting an offer from them after COVID-19 was surreal! When I discovered the Capacity Building program area, I was impressed to find that NASA was also working to help communities around the world using Earth-observing satellites. 

Rachel Chang
Rachel Chang. Credits: Chloe Chang

How do you help the Capacity Building Program? 

I am the design intern for the program. I use my design and communication skills to accurately and effectively represent our mission and try to extend their reach. I design any official materials for Capacity Building as well as external organizations that NASA is a part of, such as AGU Fall Meeting, Committee on Earth Observation Satellites and Americas Symposium.  

What makes you tick? 

I am a very work-oriented person. I thrive better in busier situations when I am handling multiple things at once. In my free time I usually build upon things I am learning or learn something new. I usually work in a mindset of “how can this be improved?” or “what can I do to help this situation or person?” 

What is a normal day as a NASA intern? 

I usually need to be on standby because I never know when more design work will be needed, and this gives me the opportunity to create for multiple organizations that collaborate with NASA. There is always something to revise, improve or redesign. Aside from my design tasks, I also help with research for creating training modules with the other interns. 

How did you get interested in the program? 

Searching through NASA internship programs, this was one of the few that included some design skills in the requirements. In my interview, the Capacity Building program said they were specifically looking for a design intern so it's fortunate they found me! Most of my design work focuses on creating for the minority and other underrepresented people so the job we were tasked with fit nicely with my interests! 

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

Designing for NASA. It hits you when you receive the official NASA Style Guides and apply the official logo to materials. I love being able to utilize my skill set to represent Capacity Building to the world! 

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

We’ve had the opportunity to meet numerous important figures within NASA and to learn about some of the big up-and-coming space projects NASA will release in the near future. Although my internship experience thus far has been virtual, my mentors have still made the experience fulfilling. 

Where do you go from here? 

I will complete my undergraduate degree in Communications Design from Parsons School of Design in May 2021. My design thesis is on creating inclusive design experiences through an illustrated book and interactive app for children with autism. Simultaneously, I am taking a one-year master’s program at Cornell Tech for tech startups. My team’s startup is creating a software dashboard called Augrow for sustainable farmers. 

What do your friends have to say? 

“As a designer, Rachel is gifted with a keen eye and incredible artistic flair. Her creations always find the perfect sweet spot to balance practicality and user experience with aesthetically-pleasing elements. Her ability to create designs that capture a consumer/reader's attention stems from the great care she takes to understand the audiences’ cultural & social background, ensuring that each element in the final product exists for a reason.” 

“Rachel is the exemplar of a human-centered designer. She has a deep understanding of how design can push forward the specific narratives surrounding her target audience’s backgrounds, needs, and motives, all of which is reflected in her meticulous craftsmanship. With a tenacious work ethic and spirit, she constantly explores interdisciplinary means of expanding her design skill set. This includes seamlessly weaving her scientific interests, linguaphilia, and her mission of accessibility into her elegantly playful designs.” 

“Rachel is an inventive thinker and designer who is dedicated to her craft. She is detail-oriented & aims to shape her design work around innovation & accessibility for all. Rachel is also very versatile, as her skill set covers the spectrum of visual design & branding to more advanced coding and UI/UX.” 

What are your goals? 

I hope to go into UI/UX design when I enter the professional workforce. I would like to work in the tech industry and hopefully become a principal designer or art director someday! Later on in life I would also like to explore museum exhibit curation and some of my other interests. Check out my portfolio here

What are your hobbies? 

I love to learn languages. In my free time, I sing, cook and bake a lot to keep up with my metabolism, as I am always eating. I am also a multidisciplinary freelance designer and Marvel/DC fan and movie expert. 

What motivates you? 

Most of my projects inside/outside NASA are catered to underserved populations. I want to create more usable experiences for everyone, not just the majority.  

What inspires you? 

I look to the future because I know it will be bright. Being in my last semester of undergrad, I am waiting to see where my hard work will lead me in the years to come.  

What is a major challenge you’ve overcome? 

In junior year of high school, I was pursuing med school to become a nurse or physician's assistant. However, I got a concussion that affected the course of my life drastically. I ended up pursuing my current major in design because of it, and I’ve overcome many obstacles along the way to get where I stand today! 

What is your dream job? 

Since I already have working at NASA under my belt, I hope to be able to work at a large tech company in the future, such as IBM, Google or Microsoft where I can use my skill set to help them produce well-designed experiences for mass consumption! I feel that in any of these companies I will be able to have the most impact to help people using design.  

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