Spend The Summer Among the Stars: Internships Available at Observatories on Mauna Kea

Kamuela (January 20th, 2006) The Akamai Observatory Internship Program offers remarkable opportunities to participate in the exciting world of modern astronomy via paid summer internships at Observatories on Mauna Kea. The Akamai program pairs undergraduate university and community college students with engineers and astronomers at Hawaii Island observatories for eight-week project-based internships.

The program begins with a week long short course which offers students the big picture view of what modern astronomy and observatories are all about. Plenty of fun and hands-on activities are built into the experience, along with a chance to get to know the rest of the class before each student starts their internship at one of the observatories on Mauna Kea.

Last summer eleven students worked at five different observatories (Gemini, Keck, Subaru, Smithsonian Submillimeter and the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy) on projects that ranged from two-way radio maintenance to installing Web-based weather surveillance cameras on the summit, to creating a computer program to graphically display asteroid data. The program is designed for students interested in science, engineering or technology and preference is given to those with ties to Hawaii.

Pearl Yamaguchi, a senior at University of Hawaii at Manoa in electrical engineering, worked with Steve Colley, an electrical engineer at Subaru Telescope. Of her experience she said, “It was very real life, and I got a real different sense of what the actual work [of electrical engineering] is like.” She also found the work challenging adding, “which is good, because it’s definitely not boring.”

Blake Stene, an electronics technology student from Hawaii Community College, worked at the Keck Observatory and said, “I couldn’t have paid for this experience; I got paid to learn stuff….pretty cool!”

Kaniela Dement, a junior at UH Hilo majoring in astronomy, worked with Optical Engineer Celine D’Orgeville at the Gemini North Observatory on their laser guide star system. Referring to the technical work he said, “this experience gave me a better understanding of lasers, the science behind them and why they’re needed.” On the organizational level he noticed, “from the custodian to the senior astronomer, everyone plays an active role in furthering mankind’s knowledge of the heavens.”

When asked to rate their overall experience at their internship site all eleven students indicated they were “extremely satisfied.” Additionally 73 percent reported that the experience changed the way they were thinking about, or planning, their education or career and 82 percent reported that the program will be very influential in how they proceed with their education and career.

The program is sponsored by the Center for Adaptive Optics (CfAO), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center in collaboration with the observatories on Mauna Kea and educational institutions in Hawaii to develop pathways for local students into astronomy and observatory work. Another purpose of the program is to encourage education collaboration among the Observatories at Mauna Kea, as well to assist in the development of a Hawaii-based technology workforce.

The CfAO also collaborates with high tech businesses, Maui Community College and The Maui Economic Development Board to coordinate a similar internship program on Maui, placing students with Maui high tech businesses. This program is also available to undergraduate university and community college students.

This summer’s Hawaii Island program will run from June 5th through the end of July. The program will conclude with a public symposium where each student will present a short talk on his or her project. During the internships the students meet weekly via video and telephone conferencing from their work sites to discuss their experiences and work with CfAO staff on their final presentations as well as resumes, career planning and other work-related skills. The deadline to be considered for internships this coming summer is February 14th.

Contact Sarah Anderson at (808) 881-3839 for more information on both programs. The online application is at: http://cfao.ucolick.org/EO/internshipsnew.

The W. M. Keck Observatory is operated by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), a non-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation whose board of directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.