Alumna Reflects on NASA Internship


Avery Malachi BS’18
Last fall, during her final semester studying software engineering at UT Dallas, Avery Malachi BS’18 applied for an internship with the NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She thought it was a long shot.
“I didn’t think I was going to get it, but they called me a week later to arrange an interview,” Malachi said.
NASA offered her an internship with its orbital debris program, which tracks “space junk” still circling the Earth. It could be anything from tiny flecks of paint or bits of metal that have come off spacecraft to entire satellites that are no longer working.
Orbital debris modeling is used to assess the impacts and risks of the debris in space and how it might affect U.S. spacecraft and satellites.
The government shutdown at the time delayed the start of her internship until early February, but Malachi soon hit the ground running. Though UT Dallas gave her the “basic building blocks” of software engineering, she had to expand her coding language skills by teaching herself FORTRAN and Python to be able to work with the Orbital Debris Program Office’s space debris environment modeling program.
Avery Malachi BS’18 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“It was pretty difficult. This took it way beyond the basics,” Malachi said. “We were using ORDEM to track where space debris was, where it is and where it will be in the future.
“It’s been amazing. Everyone at NASA is so knowledgeable about everything, but they’re humble about it, and they’re so willing to share their knowledge,” Malachi said.
Malachi’s UT Dallas degree and her NASA internship have helped her land a job in the Autonomous Vehicles Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. She will work in GPS communications.
“I’ve always wanted to do government work, doing things that will make a difference in the world,” Malachi said.
–Robin Russell