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Internship at NASA Yields Long-lasting Results for Student, Space Agency

February 28, 2024
UC Merced student Tejas Bhartia is pictured next to a NASA sign
Tejas Bhartiya recently concluded an internship with the space agency.

A UC Merced undergraduate student's work at NASA helped ensure the space agency will have cost-effective and efficient communications.

Tejas Bhartiya, who recently graduated from the university after only 2.5 years, also last month concluded an internship with NASA's Goddard Space Center.

The Goddard Space Flight Center, based in Greenbelt, Md., is home to the nation's largest organization of scientists, engineers and technologists who build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study Earth, the sun, the solar system and the universe, according to its website.

Bhartiya worked remotely on a project automating systems of low-cost optical terminals, or LCOTs, to create a cost-effective global network for optical communications.

NASA Goddard is building LCOTs that use commercially available components that can be quickly reconfigured to support optical communications missions with minimal modifications or custom-built equipment, said Korine Powers, intern coordinator for the center.

"Bhartiya created Ansible Playbooks, an efficient blueprint of repeatable actions within the system that automate IT setup including package installs and environment configuration," Powers said. "These contributions ensure that LCOT's role in NASA's future optical communications network can be deployed in a more cost-effective and efficient way."

Bhartiya explained why it's important to automate segments of LCOT.

"Because LCOT is repeatable and the end goal is to have many of them, automating segments is crucial to save time and money because you can ensure repeatability," Bhartiya said. "In addition, this fall I did more software development work for an LCOT project that wasn't automation related but proper software engineering."

Bhartiya actually received two internship offers from NASA and selected this one. The recent graduate advised those students who follow not to be intimidated by applying to positions.

"I didn't meet all of the qualifications for both internships I've gotten, and I've heard that's common," Bhartiya said. "NASA is a really fun place to work, and they have a lot of open positions all the time so I would encourage people to apply."

As for what brought Bhartiya to UC Merced, that was a matter of what the university had to offer.

"I came to UC Merced because it's a fast-growing school with a lot of opportunity, with easy access to research and more."

And what's next? A fulltime job somewhere, Bhartiya said, possibly conducting more computer science research.

Bhartiya said the experience at NASA will have long-lasting implications, both personally and globally.

"It was really fun, and really cool knowing that you are working on a project that's going to create change in the future and actually have an impact. I learned a lot as well and am overall glad I did it."