Stephanie Jimenez wearing striped shirt, artwork in the background
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Alumna Chases Opportunities at NASA

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  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • University Honors College

Yes, another Pitt person at NASA.

Recent alumna Stephanie Jiménez (A&S ’21) spent the summer in NASA’s DEVELOP program. Her mission: to “integrate NASA Earth observations with society to foster future innovation and cultivate the professionals of tomorrow by addressing diverse environmental issues today.”

She found the internship through an email sent out to Pitt environmental science majors. “I saw it and it was exactly what I wanted to do, so I applied,” said Jiménez, who earned a BS in environmental science and BA in global and popular music with certificates and concentrations in Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Latin American Studies and sustainability.

NASA asks that interns not share the details of their work, but Jiménez described it as using many of the skills she developed at Pitt, such as map-building, research and environmental studies. It also helped her create and foster new skills. “This feels much more high-stakes and less time,” she said.

How Pitt prepared her for launch

Jiménez attended to a performing arts high school and initially decided to pursue science at Pitt. “I can do it all here,” she said. “I was able to step away from the performance side and learn more about different types of music, and I’ve always loved the environment.”

During a semester off after two-and-a-half years of undergraduate classes, Jiménez realized what she really wanted to pursue: Geographical Information Systems. “My break helped me really focus on what I wanted to do, and I’ve always loved maps.”

Although she did not pursue GIS until later in her academic career, she said she felt at home in the department, “Everyone there is so passionate.”

For her senior capstone project, Jiménez created an interactive virtual ArcGIS StoryMap to reflect cultural change over time by linking remote sensing, geography and history to the use of music by and for the Indigenous Yoeme (Yaqui) in Sonora, Mexico.

She developed the project as a University Honors College fellow under the supervision of Brett Say, Pitt’s director of research and creative programs for the Honors College and Shalini Ayyagari, assistant professor in the Department of Music. Say said that Jiménez’ project “epitomizes what we try to support in the honors college” by doing the project in “a very interdisciplinary way.”

Jiménez also played a large role in Pitt’s Latinx Student Association. She was on the executive board for several semesters, and then became president of the association as a junior. “It was all about pulling together such a small community at Pitt,” she said, “and what does that community want? How can we accomplish that? It was a lot to navigate.”

She said her experience in the club not only gave her experience working with administrations, but made her feel at home at Pitt, “I found students who were like me, and I helped create a club that became the best fit for me.”

Jiménez plans to re-apply for the DEVELOP program this fall, as NASA encourages students to pursue the program multiple times and complete multiple projects. “I’ve learned so much in this position, I just want to keep learning more,” she said. She is also looking into pursuing graduate school.

“I just want everyone to know these programs exist, and they can do them,” she said, “Don’t be intimidated by the big names. You never know what you can do unless you try.”

See more Pitt people’s impressive internships in our archives.

 

— Kendal Johnson