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Student rocketing off to NASA JPL with NZ Space Scholarship

15 March 2023

UC postgraduate student has been selected by NASA and the NZ Space Agency for an internship in the United States.


UC Science postgraduate student Leah Albrow is off to NASA JPL at Caltech for a 12-week internship.

UC Science student Leah Albrow is one of five Kiwi postgraduate students selected for a 12-week internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, supported by the government-funded New Zealand Space Scholarship programme. She will travel to the US to start her internship later this month (March).

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Leah is pursuing an honours degree in astronomy at the University of Canterbury. She has been captivated by space since visiting the University of Canterbury Mount John Observatory near Lake Tekapo as a child, where she was able to observe New Zealand’s pristine dark skies.

“I am thrilled and very grateful to have been selected for a NASA internship and cannot wait to learn and contribute to the project,” Leah says. “My goal during this internship is to contribute in a meaningful way, and to learn as much as possible from the experience. I hope to use what I learn to continue pursuing my passion for astrophysics and to make contributions to the field in the future.”

Leah’s internship will see her working on the Exoplanet Watch project. She will be responsible for conducting large-scale data analysis of exoplanet transits collected by students and amateur astronomers, in order to identify new planets or signals of orbital changes of currently known targets. By combining this data with hundreds of existing datasets, she aims to optimise the use of large telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, by reducing uncertainty around the timings of transit events.

Through her work on this project, Leah hopes to involve more people in astronomical research and contribute to the ongoing search for exoplanets that could support life.

Following the completion of her internship, Leah plans to continue her studies in astronomy and become an astrophysics research scientist.

About the scholarship:

The New Zealand Space Scholarship is administered by the New Zealand Space Agency, part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), to support students selected to undertake internships at NASA. Each scholarship covers return airfares to the United States and visa costs, plus a stipend for accommodation and living expenses.

Students will work on space-related projects guided by NASA JPL mentors, gaining hands-on experience in their fields of study and access to NASA’s best and most advanced research facilities.

This is the largest cohort of New Zealand Space Scholarship recipients and marks the return to in-person internships following two years of online internships with NASA’s JPL. Previous in-person internships, in 2019, were at the NASA Ames research centre in Silicon Valley.

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