IU Southeast junior Jacob Dietrich interning at NASA’s Europa Clipper program 

8th July 2024
Jacob Dietrich displays some of the equipment he is working with during his internship with NASA this summer.

By Blair Guzman

An IU Southeast student is spending his summer interning for NASA in San Antonio, Texas. 

Jacob Dietrich, a junior at IUS majoring in Chemistry with concentration in Biochemistry has received an amazing opportunity to intern with NASA this summer as part of the Europa Clipper program.  

During this internship, Dietrich will be working to obtain calibration data collected from the Europa Clipper MAss Spectrometer for Planetary EXploration (MASPEX) and assess what that means for Europa’s, the fourth largest moon of Jupiter, habitability.  

“By ‘bouncing’ the ions back and forth multiple times before detection, the length of the flight path in MASPEX can be controlled. This will help ensure the data being collected is the most precise and give an understanding of what these results mean for the habitability of Europa.”  

Dietrich says he looks forward to learning about the details of using analytic chemistry techniques such as mass spectrometry to answer difficult and fascinating questions about life and the universe around us.  

“The MASPEX instrument is the so called ‘nose’ of the expedition and will ‘sniff’ out the shell of gas around Europa to discern its chemical composition,” said Dietrich.  

The focus of the project Dietrich will be working on during his internship is to determine how the number of ions detected by the MASPEX instrument changes as a function of the instrument’s mass resolution and how this response affects measurement of Europa’s environment and assessment of Europa’s habitability. 

Dietrich says he’s had an excellent experience at NASA so far. 

“My mentor has been wonderful, and everybody has been helpful and kind in the process of figuring out the logistics of an internship.” 

Dietrich began his search for an internship by going to NASA’s website to find available opportunities before applying to 15 different ones that interested him. He says internships like his are accessible by anyone interested. 

“Opportunities like this are available to everyone…NASA has a very diverse set of opportunities you can apply for, ranging from engineering to human resources or even accounting.” 

This is Dietrich’s second internship with NASA. His first was in the summer of 2021 where he worked on gathering data associated with climate change in the artic to support the Arctic-COLORS (Arctic-COastal Land Ocean inteRactions) program. 

Dietrich says one of the most exciting things he’s accomplished as an undergraduate student through his internships is networking with some of the world’s top scientists,  

During his time at IU Southeast, Dietrich was president and co-founder of the Hiking Club, and also had opportunities to work with other students in the classroom.  

“IU Southeast has given me the wonderful opportunity to work as a teaching assistant for various chemistry laboratory classes for the past 2 years,” said Dietrich. 

Dietrich credits his time at IU Southeast, with its small class sizes and caring professors, as a key reason he had the experience he needed for his internship with NASA. He plans on continuing his education in the future. 

“My goal is to get a PhD in a science related field, and I hope that this internship will help me decide my specific field of study and further career goals afterwards,” he said. 

Blair Guzman is a junior from Eisenberg, Germany majoring in Audio Production. She works as a student intern in the Office of Marketing and Communications.

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