To Dark Emu & beyond: 5 Indigenous uni students land NASA internships

- August 14, 2023 2 MIN READ
Monash Prof Ann Nicholson, ASA Head Enrico Palermo, NISA boss Prof Chris Lawrence, US Consul General Kathleen Lively and the NISA students
Monash Prof Ann Nicholson, ASA Head Enrico Palermo, NISA boss Prof Chris Lawrence, US Consul General Kathleen Lively and the NISA students
Five Indigenous Australian university students will head to the United States next week for internships with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The students are part of the inaugural cohort of Monash University’s National Indigenous Space Academy (NISA), selected from universities across Australia and supported by the Australian Space Agency.

The students will be partnered with a scientist or engineer mentor at NASA’s JPL in California for a 10-week internship and complete projects outlined by their mentors while also contributing to current NASA JPL missions.

The students are: Ngarrindjeri man, Linden Beaumont (Monash), Kamilaroi woman, Cedar Lett (Griffith) Palawa man, Edward (Ted) Vanderfeen (Western Sydney uni), Limilngan and Mudburra man, Lincoln Bourke, (Sydney) and Gundungurra woman, Tully Mahr (Melbourne).

Wadjak/Ballardong Noongar man Professor Christopher Lawrence, Associate Dean (Indigenous) at Monash University’s Faculty of IT, said this is a once-in a lifetime opportunity.

“These amazing young Indigenous STEM students will be working on ongoing NASA projects, including ocean exploration vehicles and characterising the microorganisms within the International Space Station,” he said.

“It is incredible that we are able to empower our Indigenous youth to learn from the best in the world so we can nurture Australian capabilities in space research, and ultimately it would be great to see NISA produce the world’s first Aboriginal astronaut”

Before heading to the US, the students will spend this week at Monash’s Faculty of IT ‘Space Boot Camp’ internship preparation program to get their heads around aerodynamics, robotics, rovers, astrophysics, planetary science, engineering, computer and earth sciences as well as past and current space exploration missions at NASA.

Australian Space Agency boss Enrico Palermo said developing a diverse STEM workforce is a priority of the agency.

“These students are going to be exposed to cutting-edge space missions and will develop knowledge and skills they can bring home to our space and tech community,” he said.

“As we continue to grow our space sector here at home, we have an opportunity to do that in a uniquely Australian way by embracing thousands of years of First Nations knowledge in making sense of the land, by looking to the sky.”

Computer science student Linden Beaumont said he is looking forward to applying his coding skills to space-related projects.

“I’m happy to have been given this unique chance to expand my knowledge and find new ways to apply my skills while hopefully creating lifelong connections in a completely fascinating industry,” he said.

Professor Lawrence said Monash’s NISA is eager to work with partners across the Australian and global space sectors to increase the scale of the program and support Indigenous-led space startups and entrepreneurships.