UHCL-Boeing partnership gives student intern reason to be 'excited to go to work every day'
When a professor, advisor or other mentor helps a student navigate college, that student’s chances for success increase greatly. For University of Houston-Clear Lake junior Jose Ramirez, who is in the midst of an internship with Boeing at NASA Johnson Space Center, the guidance he’s received from his professors and others at UH-Clear Lake have shown him that it’s true—the sky truly is the limit.
In September 2022, UHCL and Boeing signed an agreement enabling Boeing to offer engineering students entry-level employment experience and internships that support multiple projects that support the International Space Station, the CST-100 Starline Commercial Crew Program and the Space Launch System.
Ramirez said that he transferred to UHCL from Alvin Community College and had been certified as an emergency medical technician.
“I started out wanting to be pre-med, but I had friends who were going into engineering and following NASA-related events. They were excited about it and I asked them what engineering was like,” he said. “They talked about aerospace engineering and the mechanical engineering program at UHCL, and that’s how I decided to become a mechanical engineering major.”
While at UHCL, Ramirez found the Pathways to STEM Careers grant program, which enables Hispanic students to successfully transfer from two-year programs to four-year institutions in STEM fields of study. The grant includes provisions for paid opportunities for students to conduct scientific research and gain on-the-job experience through internships.
“If it had not been for Pathways to STEM, I would not have had a research assistantship with (Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering) Kazi Md Masum Billah,” he said. “Pathways to STEM sent me notifications and encouraged me to go to STEM-related events. If it had not been for them, I would not have been as engaged and I wouldn’t have worked with Dr. Billah, who is the one who told me to apply for the Boeing internship.”
Ramirez said sought further guidance from Internship Programs Coordinator in Strategic Partnerships Bernadina Streeter.
“I worked with Strategic Partnerships and we got the application done,” he said. “They set up the interview for me, and they were the mediator between UHCL and Boeing. They helped me to practice for the interview process. Without their help, my internship outcome might have been very different. I was able to practice and learn how to narrow in on the interview questions.”
He said he had been nervous about the application, partly because he did not understand the scope of Boeing’s work.
“I knew Boeing worked with airplanes, but I didn’t know everything about what they did with NASA and ISS,” he said. “When I was preparing, I saw they did a lot of virtual reality on ISS, which really interested me. I’d like to be involved with developing new technologies. I want to be around that as much as I can and incorporate that into possible future designs.”
He said that although the interview process wasn’t easy, he knew that receiving the internship would change his future.
“For anyone else who’s nervous about applying to NASA as I was, I would say don’t be afraid of how the future could end up,” he said. “Don’t be caught up in assumptions or ‘what ifs.’ If you’re unsure about something, just go ahead and do it. Focus on what you want right now and take the jump.”
At Boeing, Ramirez says he’s working with a team to help develop tools to train astronauts for the ISS.
“I’m doing a lot of designing and training to push into incorporating the new technology that relates to VR into the design,” he said. “This experience will really add to my resume when I graduate. I will be more effective at working with experienced engineers, and I will know the expectations of a company, designing and working on a team project.”
He added that he felt he was definitely in the right place. “I love going to work, I’m already thinking about what I’m going to do. In my environment, I’m learning things not just for the sake of it, but to learn and create new and better things. That’s why I’m excited to go to work every day.”