Alumna Ratana Ngaotheppitak’s NASA Internship Led to New Job and Award

Community Profile

Alumna Ratana Ngaotheppitak’s seven-month internship at the NASA Ames Research Center helped her secure a job as a NASA Archivist and earn the 2011 SLIS Jean Wichers Professional Practice Award.

“The internship at NASA was the perfect opportunity to gain experience and start working for an agency that will put me on the path to a career in government archives,” said Ngaotheppitak, who graduated from San José State University School of Information in May 2011.

During her Fall 2010 archives internship, Ngaotheppitak worked with a collection documenting one of the “human computers” at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in the 1940s and 1950s. She processed the Amelia Reid Papers from start to finish by completing the accession record, taking an inventory of the materials, performing preservation work, creating a finding aid and a MARC record, and encoding the finding aid for display in the Online Archive of California.

Her professional experience at NASA made Ngaotheppitak a strong candidate for the position of Life Sciences Data Archivist, which she was offered in March 2011. She was subsequently awarded the Jean Wichers Professional Practice Award by iSchool faculty to recognize her achievements.

As a student, Ngaotheppitak worked hard to develop a professional network and to find learning opportunities. She contacted NASA to arrange a tour of the History Office when she first moved to San Jose, and established a relationship with the History Office Archivist before applying for her internship.

“When you’re a student you have to be really proactive to get the experience that will help you find a job,” explained Ngaotheppitak. “Internships are so valuable, because you really start to network and you have the opportunity to get your foot in the door in a career that you want.”

Ngaotheppitak grew up attending air shows with her father, a mechanical engineer, and has dreamed of working for NASA ever since she decided to become an archivist. One of the reasons she enrolled at iSchool in spring 2009 was because of our school’s professional internship opportunities with the NASA Ames Research Center’s History Office and with other institutions.

At the iSchool Ngaotheppitak focused on the Archival Studies Career Pathway and took elective courses in web usability and cataloging, which now support her work in the Life Sciences Data Archive. Ngaotheppitak’s job involves cataloging data from NASA’s space flight experiments, preserving audio and visual materials, and working with the documents collection. She also provides reference services to researchers in the small science library.

“I’m so lucky to be working here, and I’m learning so much,” Ngaotheppitak said.