NASA Ames Space Life Sciences Training, Moffett Field, CA, USA
NASA’s Space Life Sciences Training Program (SLSTP) works to inspire the next wave of space-biologists and engineers early in their career by recruiting outstanding undergraduates for a competitive 10-week space-biology program. Until now, a method for evaluating the program’s success in meeting educational and programmatic goals had not been established. The programmatic goals used to evaluate SLSTP’s success are as follows; SLSTP continuing to increase diversity and inclusion via advertising and recruitment, SLSTP’s ability to introduce interns to the space biology community and prepare them for a future in STEM, and lastly, SLSTP’s impact on interns’ academic & career choices. To assess the ability of the program in meeting these goals, a retrospective survey of SLSTP alumni was conducted, analyzing SLSTP’s impact on their academic and career choices. Of the 81 alumni from cohort years 2013-2019 , 44 responded to the survey. The survey consisted of 29 questions obtaining information on respondents’ overall experience ratings, mentor ratings, skill development, and SLSTP’s relevancy to their career. Demographical data was also gathered from SLSTP’s application portal that was used comparatively to examine SLSTP’s ability to recruit a diverse, engaging cohort. When surveyed on SLSTP’s ability to prepare interns for ten training objectives, 84 percent of respondents felt SLSTP had Done “Well” or “Very Well” in preparing interns in every training objective, including the pursuit of a career in space biology. Similarly, 84 percent of respondents still have academic and professional goals related to space biology and the space industry. Nearly 46 percent of respondents are actively pursuing degrees related to space biology & STEM, with 24 percent working directly in government positions in STEM. For SLSTP to continue increasing programmatic diversity & inclusion, the application must be distributed to more institutions and organizations who serve and support underrepresented communities. In conclusion, SLSTP has been a successful scientific program; the exposure, opportunities, and networks that participants obtain over the course of their internship have proved to encourage individuals to return to the space biology community. SLSTP continues to bring in outstanding undergraduates who excel in their fields, contribute to the STEM community, & encourage others to join the program. SLSTP could be integrated at other NASA centers by standardizing programmatic success criteria and developing programmatic guidelines (i.e. manual, handbooks, metrics, etc.).