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National Science Foundation

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

Jessica Bratahani

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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