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Psyche mission internships prove a stellar opportunity for ASU students

Roles range from social media to software programming

Artist rendering of the Psyche asteroid
September 25, 2023

UPDATE, Oct. 11: NASA and SpaceX are standing down from the Oct. 12 launch of the agency’s Psyche mission due to unfavorable weather conditions. NASA and SpaceX are now targeting launch at 10:19 a.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 13, from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Editor's note: On Sept. 28, NASA announced that the Psyche launch is now targeted for Oct. 12.

An e-mail pops up in your inbox. It’s a job posting, and NASA is mentioned.

Or you heard about this mission called Psyche from a friend or in one of your classes.

Or you were in the middle of the woods camping and couldn’t fill out the internship application when it first caught your eye, but a year later you got the job.

The routes four Arizona State University students took to land internships on the Psyche mission vary greatly, but they have all wound up at the same place: thrilled to be doing their part for the first ASU-led deep-space NASA mission, a journey to a metal-rich asteroid that’s scheduled to launch Oct. 5 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“There’s been so many moments working for Psyche that I hear about the mission and get chills,” said Kacy Hatfield, a graduate student studying media arts and sciences in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “It’s by far the coolest experience I’ve had in college.”

RELATED: Read more Psyche mission news

Cassie Bowman, an associate research professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration who leads the student collaboration opportunities as a Psyche co-investigator, said the interns have brought “so much creativity, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to Psyche Student Collaborations. They are responsible for much of the work we do and are trusted by the entire Psyche team.”

ASU News talked with the interns about their experience working for the mission.

Kacy Hatfield

Student in a graduation gown

Kacy Hatfield

Hatfield’s love of space began as she was growing up in Boise, Idaho.

Her parents would take her to the Bruneau Dunes Observatory, where she’d stare up at space.

“It has this huge telescope that cost millions of dollars, and I remember seeing the ISS (International Space Station) go across the sky for the first time and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’”

Hatfield is the Psyche Student Collaborations student manager as well as the student lead for content and writing. She also manages the Psyche capstone program – Psyche-focused projects undertaken by students in their senior year of college — with fellow intern Niketan Chandarana.

“Really, everyone on the Psyche team kind of does whatever task they’re given,” Hatfield said. “I think it’s awesome that our (number) of interns is relatively small, because we get to be so involved in the mission.

“Sitting in on meetings and hearing about the communication going on, how each person may not have started as an expert in what they’re doing, but they learned and they’re willing to share. There’s not really any gatekeeping of any sort, which maybe I anticipated for such an exciting mission. It’s all about exploration and curiosity. We all come from different academic backgrounds, so it’s really fun to get to collaborate.”

Niketan Chandarana

Portrait of a student in front of red rocks

Niketan Chandarana

Chandarana, a graduate student studying computer science in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, heard from a friend in the School of Earth and Space Exploration that there could be job openings at the school.

Intrigued, Chandarana saw an opening for a programmer on the Psyche mission, applied and received the internship. As the programming and outreach intern, Chandarana is the lead for all of Psyche Student Collaborations’ computer programming efforts, including creating web applications, debugging Psyche capstone projects, mentoring capstone teams and creating content for the website.

Some of that content includes Psyche-inspired web-based or virtual reality games — Psyche Scanner and Return From Psyche are two examples — created by different capstone project teams. (Explore the student-created games on the capstone website.)

“It’s a fun way for kids to learn about Psyche, and the games can be educational as well,” Chandarana said.

Chandarana said his work is “super exciting and fascinating,” and he can’t wait to get to Florida in early October for the scheduled launch.

“I’ve never seen a space launch before, of course,” he said. “And I’m really looking forward to meeting other people from NASA, JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and Psyche. It should be a great experience.”

Samantha Beauchaine

Portrait of a student

Samantha Beauchaine

You never know what you’ll hear in a classroom — and how it can lead you down a path you never envisioned.

Beauchaine, a third-year student majoring in geological sciences, was sitting in one of her classes in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and a conversation ensued about Psyche and Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the mission’s principal investigator and a Regents Professor.

“So I went up to this guy after class and I was like, ‘Who is this Lindy person?’” Beauchaine recalled with a laugh. “How can I reach out to her?”

Around the same time, Beauchaine was looking for a job. She filled out the internship application form, was hired and later met with Elkins-Tanton.

“I was like, ‘I actually work for you now,’” Beauchaine said.

Beauchaine leads the @MissionToPsyche social media accounts on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram and Facebook. She creates content, engages with followers and develops social media campaigns to get people excited about the mission. She also works with Psyche Inspired art interns to post their work on social media.

“It’s mainly about getting content out there that would interest people,” Beauchaine said. “Like, people who might not be interested in space — what can we do to catch their eye and pull them in? So I try to create content that’s eye-catching and also informative.”

Like the other interns, Beauchaine will be in Florida to witness the launch this October.

“I’m just looking forward to being with so many people who have worked on this,” she said. “Being in that environment with that many people who are just as excited as I am, probably a hundred times more excited … and then just to see it go up in space and be like, ‘All right, this is the start of it.’”

Tristan Tierce

A portrait of a student

Tristan Tierce

Tierce, a fourth-year student with a double major in art studies and business entrepreneurship, was about to start his second year when he saw an item in a Barrett, The Honors College's email newsletter about an open multimedia position.

He was about to go camping, though, so he didn’t apply for the position. But he followed up after he got back into Tempe, applied and is now the multimedia and web intern, and the lead for all the multimedia graphics for Psyche Student Collaborations.

Tierce also manages the website and creates the annual coffee table book for Psyche Inspired as well as the virtual gallery.

“I kind of do whatever they ask me to do relating to website graphic design,” Tierce said.

A large part of Tierce’s job is co-managing the Psyche Inspired program with Beauchaine. He has categorized the artwork that students from across the country send in, and this year he’s designing the cover and editing the pages of the coffee table book the artwork will be featured in.

“I’ve been working on Psyche for about two years now, and there’s been sometimes where I kind of forget the opportunity that I have or … the people I’ve been around,” Tierce said. “But I’m definitely very thankful for everything.

“I remember at the end of last semester there was a big Psyche meeting, and I got to talk to Lindy, and I just fully realized for the first time the scope of what I’m a part of.”

Tierce said the internship has been ideal in that it incorporates his educational pursuits for art studies from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and business entrepreneurship from the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“Whether or not I continue to work for Psyche or NASA to some extent after graduating, I feel like this position has prepared me for a lot of different pathways that I want to take — whether it’s in tech, starting my own business or wherever I end up,” he said.

“It’s constantly made me get better at both of my majors as well as giving me a lot of experience of what it’s like to work with a team on this kind of scale.”

Top image: An artist's concept of the Psyche asteroid. Image by Peter Rubin/ASU/JPL/NASA

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