4 mins read 31 Mar 2023

Indigenous Students Internship Opportunity with NASA’s JPL

A new program - supported by the Australian Government, the Australian Space Agency and NASA, will send five Indigenous University students to NASA’s JPL on a 10-week summer internship.

Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A new internship, supported by the Australian Space Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was launched last week in Adelaide, aimed at encouraging Indigenous Australian university students to apply for a 10-week full-time summer program with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). 

The program, known as the National Indigenous Space Academy (NISA) was launched by Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, as well as Minister for Indigenous Australias Linda Burney during the week when NASA’s Administrator, Senator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Colonel (USAF, Ret.) Pamela Melroy were visiting Australia - the first such visit by a sitting NASA Administrator since 2014. 

Five Indigenous university students (from both undergraduate and postgraduate courses) will be selected as part of the program, and attend a “Space Bootcamp” prior to their departure focused on aerodynamics, robotics, astrophysics, planetary science, engineering, computer and earth sciences, as well as past and current space exploration missions they will be exposed to at NASA JPL.

As part of their internships, the students will be partnered with a NASA JPL scientist or engineer mentor and complete projects outlined by their mentors while also contributing to NASA JPL missions - creating a pathway for Indigenous students to participate in NASA JPL projects such as robotics, robot perception control, path planning and Artificial Intelligence.

“This internship program offers First Nations STEM students a fantastic opportunity,” said Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have so much to offer the world of science and technology and I hope the students who take part in this program are inspired. I look forward to seeing the National Indigenous Space Academy help develop future space leaders.”

NISA is a program being led by Prof. Christopher Lawrence who is the Associate Dean (Indigenous) of Monash’s Faculty of IT, and a proud Wadjak/Ballardong man from the Noongar Nation of the South West of Western Australia. Prof. Lawrence has previously led the first Indigenous Graduate Attribute across STEM in higher education, and successfully run a similar pilot program with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in 2019. 

“This partnership between the NISA and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will demonstrate Indigenous Australian students – and students throughout the world – can play a critical role in human space exploration,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. 

“The missions of tomorrow will be sparked by the accomplishments of today. As we usher in a new era of space exploration, our nations must continue eroding barriers that limit opportunities and instead support future explorers to reach their full potential.”

The NISA program is being delivered through Monash University but will be open to eligible Indigenous students from all Australian universities, with the program being supported by the Australian Government and the Australian Space Agency. 

“The Australian Government is committed to creating opportunities for all young people, including First Nations Australians to have rewarding careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM),” said Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic.

“The National Indigenous Space Academy will help students develop knowledge and skills that will open up a new world of career opportunities.”

Head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo echoed the sentiment, stating that he was looking forward to these Indigenous students bringing back their learnings from JPL, and for them becoming a part of the dynamic Australian space and tech communities. 

Express your interest in the National Indigenous Space Academy here