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Internship Proves Valuable to CEAS Student

October 3, 2016
Brenna Doherty and Vladimir Alvarado discuss reservoir technology.
Brenna Doherty and Vladimir Alvarado discuss reservoir technology.

Brenna Doherty, a third-year University of Wyoming mechanical engineering student, recently completed a summer internship in Washington, D.C.

Doherty, a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, served in the ASME 2016 Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) program. At the conclusion of the nine-week internship, Doherty produced a paper on planetary defense and space-based tracking.

Established in 1980, the WISE program’s goal is to educate future leaders of the engineering profession on the public-policy process. WISE sponsors students from nine of the largest engineering societies for a summer. From June 6-Aug. 6, Doherty lived and worked in the nation’s capital.

“The focus of my research was on planetary defense, with an emphasis on tracking, deflecting and destroying near-earth objects,” Doherty says. “A near-earth object is any asteroid or comet that comes within 1.3 astronomical units of the Earth and can pose a serious threat if it were to impact with Earth’s surface.”

She says the primary emphasis for her paper and presentation was to determine policy recommendations that could be presented to Congress in order to enhance the funding and awareness about the need to protect Earth against near-earth objects.

Doherty says the most rewarding part of the experience was presenting her research on planetary defense at the Rayburn House of Representatives Office Building Aug. 4, calling the opportunity “something that I will never forget.” She also was able to interview numerous NASA mission coordinators and engineers.

“The primary thing that I learned from my internship this summer is that I definitely want to go into the field of aerospace, outer space and defense,” she says. “Having the opportunity to pick the minds of some of NASA’s greats and dive into previous NASA missions while researching at the Library of Congress entirely confirmed that this is the path I want to take in my career.”

Doherty has a job lined up next summer with Lockheed Martin and will leverage the skills she gained over this summer.

“The WISE internship program is unlike any other internship I have completed before, as it pushed me out of my engineering comfort zone of hardcore research and forced me to expand my mind into the policy side of how engineering projects actually get accomplished,” she says. “I believe that it is of utmost importance for all engineers to have a good understanding about how technical projects get support and funding from the government, because without this knowledge, it doesn’t matter how good the design idea is, for it will never receive the support it deserves.”

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