National Science Foundation

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Intern: Jessica Bratahani
Major: Biology Systems Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. Sally O'Connor, Program Director

Jessica Bratahani

Interviewer: Dr. O'Connor, can you tell us a bit about the National Science Foundation?

Dr. O’Connor: We fund most of the basic fundamental research that happens in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in the country. We fund universities, colleges, independent labs, and other facilities.

Interviewer: Can you tell us what your position is here and what roles and responsibilities come along with it?

Dr. O’Connor: My title is Program Director. We usually call it Program Officer at the National Science Foundation. As Program Officer, I have many responsibilities. One of the main responsibilities is receiving proposals from faculty and scientists and processing and granting the awards.

Interviewer: Jessica, what work do you do for the NSF?

Jessica: I work in the Division of Biological Infrastructure and my position is about statistics and analyzing data, which I’m interested in because I am pursuing a minor in statistics. Dr. O’Connor also gave me my own project, which was more meaningful to me than doing a daily office routine. I work with Dr. O’Connor doing my project — compiling the data to make the presentation and making sure everything is accurate so that the presentation has a good flow.

Interviewer: Dr. O’Connor, how many interns does NSF usually have and what skills do you look for in prospective interns?

Dr. O’Connor: [We have] about 20 interns, typically. As for skills, it depends on the projects. The ability to write, ability to use Microsoft software — Excel, Powerpoint — that’s the minimum.

Interviewer: Jessica, what parts of your internship have been the most challenging and the most rewarding?

Jessica: The most challenging part was preparing for my presentation, but it was a rewarding process. I will be able to present it at different scientific conferences. I submitted an abstract for a science conference in Hawaii and, if it gets accepted, I'll be able to present it there. 

Interviewer: Dr. O’Connor, can you tell us about some of Jessica’s contributions to NSF during her time here?

Dr. O’Connor: She’s been great, she’s very talented and very smart. What she’s working on is a meaningful project. She’s gathering new data and it’s going to help me with making decisions on new awards in a couple of months. 

Interviewer: Jessica, how has being at NSF affected and informed your future career goals?

Jessica: Since I’m interested in gathering statistics and data and presenting it I think this internship will definitely be helpful for my future career. I’ve learned about different grad school programs and the different paths I can take after graduation through NSF. This internship is also really good because I have my own project and a report I can show future professors or future employers.