“What JPL is trying to do is develop relationships with universities so we actually can get to know the professors and the curriculum and see if we can target certain areas for involvement,” explains Naomi Palmer, section manager for JPL’s power and sensor systems and its newly appointed university relationship manager for CSUN.
Broadly speaking, Palmer’s charge is to establish more of a presence for JPL on campus, with an eye toward recruiting CSUN students as JPL employees. As part of this effort, she is trying to connect with some of the student engineering organizations, hoping to arrange for a group of female engineers to talk with the CSUN chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, for example, and have someone from JPL speak on campus about the latest developments at JPL. In addition, she was recently inducted into HKN (Eta Kappa Nu), the engineering honor society, with the understanding that she will support one event every year.
“We’re trying to create a pipeline—to identify students, hopefully early enough in their schooling, so they can come into JPL as summer students and see if they like it, and we can see if we like them,” she says. “We’ll bring them back the next summer if they do well. Or if they’re graduating, we can bring them in as employees. If they’re local, we can try a part-time position. It should be ongoing year after year.”
A collaboration between the college and JPL is already providing an outstanding opportunity to do exactly that. The CubeSat project with Sharlene Katz, professor of electrical and computer engineering (see page 8), opened JPL’s doors to four of the six students who worked on it last year (the other two had other commitments). The four students had summer jobs there and were brought back for part-time jobs during the academic year. Twenty students are currently working on the CubeSat project, and Palmer has asked Katz to approach the top candidates to see if they too want to work part time at JPL.
“I’ve been recruiting for a really long time, and I think JPL is trying to formalize this new program,” Palmer says. “We’re always looking to collaborate with universities.”