Rachel

About Rachel

Senior

MS Human Factors & Systems

Graduate: MS Human Factors & Systems
Undergraduate: Engineering Physics
Minor: Mathematics
Career Goals: To work in the field of Human Factors, studying human performance in extreme environments.
Why I chose Embry-Riddle: I wanted to become an astronaut after attending space camp as a kid. Science and sports were my strengths in high school. My senior year, I received a pamphlet in the mail about Embry-Riddle and was immediately intrigued. I flew in from IL to tryout with the soccer team, toured the campus, went to the beach and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I wanted to make Embry-Riddle my new home!

August 24, 2011

The end is drawing near on my days as an intern. Luckily, I know that I have a job here after I finish my class in the fall. I have really had a great time working here at the Naval Surface Warfare Center. The people I worked with were very nice, personable and eager to help teach me new things. I was able to go out on a ship, take a trip to California for a conference, participate in an experiment, help design an experiment, revise official documents and even experience my first earthquake while at work! Virginia is a neat state; there is so much to do here. I spent many weekends sightseeing in Washington D.C. and didn’t come close to doing everything I wanted to. It will be difficult to leave next week and head back to school because I have met some really great friends here. I’m sure time will fly by and I’ll be back in Virginia in no time!

The past two weeks have been very busy here at work. I have been working on at least three different projects. The top two things I have learned from working here are multitasking and time management. Sometimes it was overwhelming to come into work and know that you have five different things that need to get done that day or have upcoming due dates and you don’t know where to start. I like to make to-do lists in order to help me stay on track and get the things that absolutely need to get done that day accomplished. My list consists of no more than six items and is listed from most to least important. Whatever doesn’t get done that day becomes first on the list for the next day. Also, staying in contact with your supervisor or team lead is very important even if you fall behind. It’s good to let them know where you are on each project. Another thing I’ve had to get use to was reading very large documents, quickly. In school I remember being given much smaller documents (e.g., 20 pages) and thinking how difficult that was. Most of the documents I’ve read here were anywhere from 50-200 pages! Granted, we didn’t have to read the entire document but it was still overwhelming.

One of the new projects I’ve been working on the past couple weeks is looking at sailors’ ability to hear and communicate in a high noise environment. I’ve been able to sit in on meetings where we discussed the experimental design of the study, what the goals are going to be and how we are going to set up the lab in order to carry out the study. The area of research I have enjoyed the most is doing the hands-on setup of the experiment and running participants. The end result is rewarding too, when you find out what all the data means. Participating in all these different experimental design projects has been very helpful for when I tackle my own thesis. I’ve been advised to anticipate road blocks and to be willing to roll with the punches, so to speak.

This is my last entry before I head back to school. I hope you have learned a lot from my internship experience and are inspired to apply for one yourself. One thing I have learned from this experience is that it’s never too early to start an internship. Just because you’re a freshman does not mean you cannot do an internship. Many of the people here have been interns for many years and some even started in high school! If you find a company/position you really enjoy, you may be able to continue working for them until you graduate then walk straight into a fulltime job. If you’re new to Embry-Riddle, get involved with your department, get to know your professors (they have many contacts in the industry), register with the Career Services Department as soon as possible and find out what kind of internships are available, draft up a resume and update it on a regular basis, and do not miss the career expo that Riddle hosts every year. The expo is free and all the leading aviation/aerospace companies come directly to you. You will have a very prestigious degree when you leave Embry-Riddle and companies will want you to work for them. Go get your dreams!

July 31, 2011

Time has flown by here in Virginia! At the time of this writing, I only have three weeks left on my internship. My last day is August 19th, and then I will have two weeks before I have to report back in Daytona for the last class of my graduate degree! Last week I signed the paperwork to change over from an internship to a co-op. The difference is that an internship is temporary and you are released from the company when you are done working; a co-op means that you will have a guaranteed job when you are done with school. The plan for me is to return to Florida for my class, come back here to work on my thesis, graduate in May 2012 and then become a full-time employee for the Naval Surface Warfare Center. My coworker just passed her thesis defense this past Friday at Embry-Riddle! I should be in her shoes this time next year.

One thing I forgot to mention in the last entry was how wonderful traveling is when you work for the federal government! That statement was only partially sarcastic. When I flew out to California for a conference a couple weeks ago, I ran into a few issues. The first time the idea of sending me out to CA was brought up was on a Monday. We literally spent an entire work day trying to get me registered on the Defense Traveling System (DTS) and finding out if my travel credit card had been approved. Long story short, we were able to get a flight booked for the following morning and made reservations for a rental car. My flight out of DC ended up getting cancelled. Another long story short, I called up our travel people and they were able to rebook me on a later flight and reschedule my arrival time for the rental car. It was like one-stop shopping. Plus, I received priority boarding on every flight! When I returned from my trip, there was more fun to be had with filling out reimbursement forms and documenting all my receipts. Something else I learned about is this nice little thing called per diem. Per diem is a certain amount of money that you are given for daily expenses while you are on travel. Whatever you don’t spend, you get to keep! The mileage I had to drive to and from DC was also reimbursed. Even though there may be hassles and headaches, the government definitely takes care of its employees.

I have recently been added to a couple new projects here at work. One of them is working with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). There were originally two different styles of ships built in response to a government contract. LCS 1 (USS Freedom) was built by Lockheed Martin in 2008 and LCS 2 (USS Independence) was built by General Dynamics in 2010. The frames of these two ships are very different. The government planned to choose the best design but decided to build more ships with both designs in order to keep the ship building industry afloat (pun intended). Even though the frames are different, both ships have the same capability of housing three types of interchangeable Mission Modules (MM). The MMs consist of Mine Countermeasures (MCM), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) or Anti-Surface Warfare (SUW). The assignment of the ship will depend upon which MM it has onboard. My branch, Human Systems Integration (HSI), has the responsibility of overseeing the HSI efforts across all the MMs and reviewing a document called an HSIP (Human Systems Integration Plan). Northrop Grumman wrote a nearly 200-page document to outline the HSI program for the MMs, and it is our job to review this document and return it back to Northrop with our expert recommendations and corrections.

LCS 1: http://www.lmlcsteam.com/?page_id=7

LCS 2: http://www.gdlcs.com/independence-class-lcs/uss-independence-lcs-2

By the way, you know your job is extremely cool when there are explosives going off next door!!

July 4, 2011

Hi everyone,

I have now been working for the Naval Surface Warfare Center for two whole weeks! Things are going great and I am really enjoying my internship. There has still been quite a bit of paperwork and training that I had to complete as a new government employee. Now that I work for the United States Navy, I feel an incredible sense of pride and patriotism. There’s a banner in the stairwell that I walk by multiple times a day that has a quote from Calvin Coolidge, “Patriotism in America is easy to understand; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.” If the choices I make have the best interest of my country in mind, then I will inherently be looking out for myself.

For the past two weeks, I have still been helping my classmate run participants for her thesis. I’m glad I have been able to assist her with this process because it has given me insight into what all goes into conducting a scientific experiment. We often talk about the research process in class, but actually setting up the experiment, running participants and analyzing the data yourself is a different ballgame. There can be pitfalls along the way. My classmate had run half of the participants she needed the first week, but had to make a change to the design of the study and was forced to start over. I believe she is on her fourth week of data collecting now. She’s doing great and should be able to defend her thesis by the end of July.

The most exciting thing I have done so far on my internship is take a tour of a Global Response Cutter 43m. A group of people from our Human Systems Integration (HSI) department traveled up to Washington DC to experience the cutting-edge technology and innovation of this boat built by Westport Shipyard, Inc. We were able to get underway (which means we left the dock and traveled through the water) and observe the operators demonstrate its capabilities. Being a young, eager Human Factors student, my fellow interns and I explored the boat and were able to make suggestions and recommendations for improvement.

I have never really known what I want to do for a career, but I want it to be something where other people will think, “Wow, that’s cool!” This job definitely has that ‘wow’ factor.

June 20, 2011

Well, Day one is complete!

I don’t have a lot of exciting news to report since I spent most of my time in orientation today. The day started off early, arriving on base at 0715. (I have to get used to using military time now!) New employee orientation lasted a solid 3 hours. We went through a lot of paperwork and briefings on safety, ethics and proper etiquette while on base. From there, I was released to my department. I met the department secretary who had more paperwork for me to fill out. My former classmate, who works at this company full time now, was downstairs in the Human Performance Lab. I was able to meet up with her and see where she is conducting her thesis research. We were able to get lunch together and walk around the office so that I could meet all of my co-workers. I have my very own cubicle, which is a step up in the world since I heard last year’s interns had to share a cube.

The Navy is going green! Each person has their own trash and recycling can at their desk. Then, I had more training to complete online. It was a very in-depth training on how to keep your personal and work information safe from others. I learned that I need to make my own personal passwords stronger! By the time I was finished with that training, it was already after 1700 and the day was over.

I’m excited to begin working on real projects soon. Everyone there was very nice. There seem to be a lot of fun things to do on base as well. I have already scoped out the fitness center, there is a chapel, bowling alley and a movie theater! I think it is going to be a very fun summer.

June 6, 2011

Hi everyone,

My internship has not yet begun. I left Daytona last Wednesday and drove up to Virginia with everything I could pack in my car. I decided to leave the majority of my belongings in a storage unit in Daytona since I will be back in the fall to finish my degree. You never realize how much ‘stuff’ you have until you have to move! The packing seemed to never end. I stopped in Savannah, GA on the way so that I didn’t have to do the 12 hour drive all in one day. Two of my classmates are doing an internship with Gulfstream this summer in Savannah. They seem to like it so far. I finally made it to my destination on Thursday evening.

I have three friends that have been recently hired to work at the same company full time. We spent the past few days driving around town getting to know the area. Luckily, I don’t start work until June 20th so I was able to fly home to Illinois and spend quality time with my family.

I can’t wait to start working and am excited for this opportunity! The best advice I can give is to not give up if you have made a connection with a company. I had originally been told that I was unable to get hired by this company for the summer. Fortunately, I stayed in contact with them and when the opportunity opened back up I jumped on it. My next entry should be after my first day of work!

Wish me luck.