From here to NASA

January 6, 2015
Miriam Harris in front of NASA Langley Headquarters

Navy veteran Miriam Harris already holds a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, but some of her most valuable learning experience comes from Tidewater Community College and a recent NASA internship she completed.

Harris spent 10 weeks last semester participating in NASA’s DEVELOP internship, an interdisciplinary program exploring the feasibility of Earth science projects. Interns, who are paid, use Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing data to conduct applications projects in partnership with organizations that can benefit from enhanced decision-making tools.

“The idea is to use the data to solve a community problem,” said Harris, who earned her Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Career Studies Certificate from TCC and currently uses her GI Bill benefits to work toward her Associate of Applied Science in Engineering.

Harris and the other interns took imagery from Landsat satellites to help an environmental agency in Canada called Georgia Bay Forever classify and monitor the change in wetlands surrounding the Georgian Bay, St. Lawrence River and Lake Michigan.

A former consultant for Navy Intel, Harris became interested in TCC’s GIS program to diversify her skill set and make her more marketable in a burgeoning field.

“GIS sensing is used for everything,” she said. “Any analysis you want to do of a geographic nature, whether it’s where to put schools, where to put outreach areas, where to open stores, whether the Marine Corps can go in a certain area – has certainly blossomed.”

By the end of the internship, the interns produced a technical paper and a presentation to several scientists at NASA along with a 2 ½ -minute video. In addition to learning from the experience, Harris is especially grateful for the time spent learning from the mentors at NASA and her fellow interns, who included an undergraduate biology major, an undergraduate chemistry major, a recent geology major graduate, a graduate student in environmental science and a master’s graduate in meteorology.

“It was an incredible learning experience,” said Harris, who became proficient on a pair of software programs used most frequently in GIS, plans to eventually find a new career in Navy military intelligence. “Anyone interested in going into science would find it relevant and a good place to get experience working with people from other schools.”