NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab taps three more SUNY Oswego students

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology selected three SUNY Oswego seniors for internships this summer for computer programming work on the Cassini satellite mission. From left are Samantha Bielli, majoring in computer science and applied mathematical economics, computer science major Delvison Castillo and software engineering major Andrew Darwin.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology selected three SUNY Oswego seniors for internships this summer for computer programming work on the Cassini satellite mission. From left are Samantha Bielli, majoring in computer science and applied mathematical economics, computer science major Delvison Castillo and software engineering major Andrew Darwin.

Following the trail blazed by 2012 alumnus Earl Bellinger, three more SUNY Oswego students will rocket into internships this summer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, the California Institute of Technology.

JPL selected SUNY Oswego seniors Samantha Bielli, Delvison Castillo and Andrew Darwin to work for 10 weeks on the Cassini satellite mission at the renowned research complex in Pasadena starting June 18.

Bellinger, a graduate in computer science and applied mathematics now in a Ph.D. program at Indiana University’s School of Informatics and Computing, burned so brightly during his time at JPL in 2012 that a supervisor there asked Oswego physics professor Shashi Kanbur to “send us more” for summer 2013, Kanbur said.

Kanbur spoke with Oswego computer science faculty members James Early, Doug Lea and Alex Pantaleev — and consulted Bellinger — before recommending senior computer science majors Bielli of Gloversville and Castillo of New York City and senior software engineering major Darwin of Ferrisburgh, Vt.

“It will be a fantastic experience for these students to put on their resumes,” Kanbur said. “I think it’s a great thing for the college. Think about their orientation at JPL: ‘Where are you from?’ ‘SUNY Oswego.’ ‘OK, where are you from?’ ‘SUNY Oswego.’ ‘And where are you from?’ ‘SUNY Oswego.’ Where you are from creates an impression.”

Castillo, who also minors in anthropology and cognitive science, said it took a long time to hear from JPL after he applied, but the waiting paid off.

“I was thinking I was not going to get it, so it was twice as good when I heard,” he said. “I was amazingly happy.”

Darwin, a mathematics minor, awaits more specifics on the interns’ assignments this summer.

“I understand we will be working on Web-based architecture on existing and legacy code, and creating new functionality, all part of the Cassini satellite orbiting Saturn,” he said.

Bielli, with a second major in applied mathematical economics, is eager to work outside the classroom.

“Working in a real-world situation rather than in class — a lot of good opportunities can come out of this,” she said.

Last summer, Bellinger, winner of a 2012 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, wrote computer code for the Cassini mission that NASA continues to use every day.

“He did an exceptional job,” Kanbur said. “His program optimizes the way the (mission’s computer) control sends commands to the spacecraft, and vice versa…His supervisor there was very impressed.”

Kanbur noted that Bellinger, in Brazil, and Castillo, in Taiwan, both had Global Laboratory experiences through the college. SUNY Oswego offers hands-on, immersive problem-solving opportunities to undergraduates each summer at research sites around the world in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The experience helped create the initial opportunity for Bellinger at JPL, Kanbur said.

“The three of us had a Skype call with Earl so he could tell us what his time was like at JPL and how they are using his research,” Darwin said of the Oswego interns. “Earl said he would be happy to help us between now and this summer.”

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