Internships for Career Liftoff

Naia Lum, a fourth year student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology, has been selected for the prestigious Brooke Owens Fellowship through which she will be doing an internship at Draper Laboratory, a nonprofit engineering innovation company.   

“Getting this fellowship is an honor, and being a part of this lifelong incredible community means the world to me. I’m really excited to work in this industry where I feel like there are infinite things to learn and discover,”  she says.

While this is an impressive new feather in her cap, her past few years have been defined by a broad range of experiences that have prepared her for a career in engineering, including internships, study away, conferences, and competitions.  

Naia chose to attend Illinois Tech in part because she was awarded two competitive scholarships offering leadership development opportunities, the Duchossois Leadership Scholarship and the M. A. and Lila Self Leadership Academy Scholarship.

Naia has had three opportunities to travel for her studies, spending a semester at University of College Cork in Ireland, taking a two-week service trip to Argentina funded by the Duchossois Leadership Scholarship, and traveling to Singapore with a team to participate in the XPRIZE Rainforest competition

“It’s usually uncommon for engineering students to get to study abroad, but thankfully I found a partner university who had all the coursework I needed to not fall behind. My scholarships even transferred to my study away program, which made it possible for me to go,” she says. “Studying abroad built my confidence in myself and as an engineer.”

Naia is well-prepared to make the most of her internship at Draper Laboratory, having already completed several internships at other companies. At Dimension Inx, a biomaterials startup, she did material synthesis, mechanical testing, scanning electron microscope imaging, and more. At Boeing she worked on structural design and analysis of pressurized doors for various aircrafts for one summer and then as a payload integration intern for an International Space Station project the following summer. Her time working on the project included opportunities to oversee live operations on board the space station and meet astronauts. 

“Some unique benefits of my internship experiences have been the opportunity to live in different cities every summer, to ‘float’ around and explore various industries and technical disciplines, and to meet really interesting people,” she says.

Naia says her most recent internship helped her identify her interest in guidance, navigation, and control as they apply to human space exploration. As an Accelerated Master’s Program participant, she is diving deeper into this area by pursuing an M.S. in Autonomous Systems and Robotics degree. 

Being a Brooke Owens Fellow is just Naia’s next step. 

“I’d love to make my career out of human space exploration for all the discoveries that can be made in science and be applied to better life on Earth. I want to work in guidance, navigation, and control for human space applications, and I am planning to apply for NASA’s astronaut candidate program one day,” she says.

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