HomeBlocksFront-GridHigh School Interns Explore JPL, Crime Lab Careers

High School Interns Explore JPL, Crime Lab Careers

By Eliza Partika
Glendale News-Press

Four GUSD high school students completed high-level internships at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Verdugo Regional Crime Lab this summer, the first from Glendale in positions meant for college students.
The incoming seniors represented three Glendale schools: Glendale High School, Hoover High School and Clark Magnet High School. The internships were roughly two months long and wrapped up in July.
“Each day varied, but they were all informational and engaging,” said Nelly Nikogosova, who interned with her friend and Hoover classmate, Amy Novashadyan, at Verdugo Regional Crime Lab.
Novashadyan and Nikogosova spent much of their time at Verdugo Regional Crime Lab shadowing criminalists and technicians, learning how they work, and getting hands-on experience with different aspects of the job.
For three days each week, beginning at 7:30 a.m., the students watched how their lab was cleaned and maintained — vital routines in a crime lab that requires equipment to be sterile and functioning properly.
On certain days, the students took notes on expert’s presentations or created their own to share to their lab supervisors and to practice public speaking. Other days involved fingerprint training, processing vehicles, and documenting and packaging evidence.
The Public Safety Academy class Novashadyan enrolled in at Hoover has helped her get a better understanding of forensic science. When she was presented with the internship opportunity, she knew it would be perfect. She, like all the students, gained insights into both interpersonal and practical skills.
“It exposes you to things that you wouldn’t get to see on the day-to-day, and it can help you understand exactly what you want to do in the future. The lessons you learn throughout the program are ones that can only come from hands-on learning,” Novashadyan said.
Nikogosova also heard about the internship opportunity through Hoover’s Public Safety Academy. She and Novashadyan enjoyed the challenges forensics posed for them: keeping up with information and trying the things they learned for themselves.
“I’ve always seen movies and heard about how forensics works but getting the chance to see it in real life was another story,” said Nikogosova. “I am proud of my hard work and being able to keep up with everything. Since there are so many different processes, being able to understand them all and apply those techniques myself is something I am proud of.”
Novashadyan added: “It was definitely a challenge learning about so many new concepts that I had no prior experience with but my fascination in the field made it so much more enjoyable.”

Ibrahim Ahmed (center) and Alexander Kaur (second, from right) visit JPL’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex with other JPL interns.

Meanwhile, at JPL, Ibrahim Ahmed and Alexander Kaur completed software development and quality assurance tasks within the facility.
Ahmed contributed to a program called NASA’s Eyes, one of NASA’s most accessible and popular websites that provides an immersive experience for users by allowing them to explore and visualize real-time, accurate data from NASA’s missions on Earth and throughout the solar system.
“I feel honored to be part of such a historical place at JPL and at NASA’s Eyes, because it’s a major area where science communication and outreach happens and handling real-time data about outer space missions … is quite interesting,” said Ahmed.
Kaur compiled responses and results from interviews with employees, and learned how to ask questions and networked with big names in science – something he had not done before. He is proud of the connections he has made in the industry that will help him explore future career paths.
“In the beginning, I used to be kind of introverted, but my mentor introduced me to a bunch of people,” he said. “I interviewed people, I learned how to talk to people and that helped me later on [in the internship].”
“You don’t really think about how math and science can be applied in a job. But when you’re actually there, and you see everything they do and get to appreciate it, it’s really cool,” Kaur added.
All four students are still exploring how they can apply the skills they learned to their senior years and to their future careers.
“In the field of forensics, it is important to pay close attention to every small detail to ensure you don’t miss anything,” Nikogosova said. “This applies to practically every career in one way or another.
“Additionally, being open-minded is key in forensics because things could change and you have to be open to considering different ideas and strategies. Similarly, I believe it is important to be open-minded in your life and career.”
Ahmed said he wants to delve more into the intricacies of software development as it relates to space, and for now, sees himself in a general scientific or programming-related career.
As far as internship advice for other students his age, Ahmed says get involved in whatever opportunity interests you.
“You should definitely seize that opportunity to the best of your ability, no matter how unrealistic it may seem,” Ahmed said. “Something like an internship at JPL might seem impossible, and you may be thinking that the application process is not worth the time, but you never know what might come your way.
He also emphasized the skills gained from a professional internship, especially as a high schooler, as it can give students a “competitive advantage as you have an early experience of a working environment.”

First published in the August 12 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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