Hello! My name is Nikita A., and I am from Chicago, Illinois. I participated in the NASA SEES Internship Program during the summer of 2022 as part of the Earth System Explorers team. Our program kicked off in the first week of June with an introductory webinar that detailed the goals for the next eight weeks. For the Earth System Explorers project, our goal was to research the harm mosquitoes-borne diseases pose to public health. Every Wednesday, one of our mentors or a guest scientist would meet with us to enhance our learning. They would teach us about GLOBE Observer App data analysis and share insights from existing mosquito illness research. In addition to these webinars, we would also get individual assignments each week, which provided me the opportunity to hone my abilities as a researcher.
Around week four, we started working in smaller teams to create our own research topics. Our mentors were with us the entire time and patiently responded to our questions. In my team, my role was data model developer, where I developed an image recognition program using Python and a logistic regression algorithm to identify mosquito species. I also developed modules to preprocess images retrieved from the NASA image repositories and test the model's accuracy to predict the result.
My team included six other students from different parts of the country who had diverse backgrounds. We had a collaborative environment where each person felt safe sharing their ideas and discussing their perspectives. For example, in creating our model, we ran into issues with data preprocessing, such as how to read the images from a URL, resize the image, and store the color values (RGB) in an array. Together with my teammates, we troubleshot the code and developed a successful working function to perform this task. Despite the challenges of working remotely, we collectively worked on a common goal and delivered the project on time.
I enjoyed applying machine learning knowledge to solve a real-world problem related to climate change. I also enjoyed meeting with experts from the Earth Science field to get guidance on our project. Specifically notable was my meeting with Dr. Di Yang, NASA EPSCoR scientist and AI expert. This ability to incorporate my skills, combined with getting NASA expert advice during the internship, was the best part for me about this NASA SEES program.
I have also shared my team's research work on many occasions, such as at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Workshop on "Climate Change in Chicago Metropolitan Area: Education, Awareness, and Actions." Most notable was being the Presenting Author of this project at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Conference in December 2022 - the largest international Earth and Space science meeting! This was a great opportunity for me to share my team's research work with distinguished scientists and learn about the work that other researchers are doing. Through a collaborative exchange of ideas, I now have insights into how to further my research and thoughts on my next research project. At AGU, I met in person and networked with other NASA SEES interns, program directors, and mentors. We connected immediately, given our shared passion for Earth Science. This was an experience of a lifetime, attending and presenting at the world's largest Earth and Space science conference as a high school junior!
Nikita A. presenting her research to Dr. Allison Leidner, NASA Scientist and GLOBE Program Officer.
About the author: Nikita is is an 11th-grade high school student at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Chicago IL. This blog describes a mosquito trapping experiment conducted as part of the NASA STEM Enhancement in the Earth Sciences (SEES) summer high school research internship. Her virtual internship is part of a collaboration between the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the NASA Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for US high school (http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/sees-internship/).