College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Civil engineering student lands career-changing NASA Internship

Senior in STEM takes on out-of-this-world experience with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

With her feet planted firmly on the ground, Lauren Wibe’s professional career is taking off thanks to her involvement in the elite NASA Pathways Intern Employment Program (IEP).

Starting last fall, Wibe worked in NASA’s Environmental Protection and Management Division within the administration’s Center Operations Directorate. Wibe, who is studying civil engineering with an environmental emphasis at Iowa State University (ISU), worked at the NASA Ames Research Center, located in the San Francisco Bay area in the state California.

“The Environmental Protection and Management Division is negating the effects of decades of contamination resulting from the region’s technological boom,” Wibe said. “It is also trying to reduce NASA’s environmental footprint.”

Air emissions, hazardous material management and water and energy conservation all come under the directorate’s responsibilities. Wibe worked on topics like groundwater remediation, water management and sustainability.

After she returned to ISU in January of this year, Wibe continued working remotely for NASA. She is currently proposing an expansion of NASA’s phytoremediation projects for treating contaminated groundwater. Phytoremediation describes technology that uses living plants to clean up contaminated soil, air and water.

“NASA sounded like an interesting place to work, but I didn’t fully understand how much civil engineering and NASA went hand-in-hand,” Wibe said. “When I saw this internship, it looked like a fantastic opportunity for a civil engineering student. So, I took a risk and applied. ”

Wibe is a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her interest in sustainable infrastructure began during middle school when she took part in the Future Cities Competition. The goal of the competition is to design a cutting-edge, sustainable city. Wibe’s project ultimately won recognition at the competition’s state level.

“I really enjoyed what I was doing in the competition,” Wibe said. “I think that was when I realized I could see myself going into a career in STEM.”

For Wibe, the most exciting part of her NASA experience was working with amazing and interesting people. It was even common for celebrities to stop by to tour facilities, she said.

Wibe is preparing to take what she learned at NASA to graduate school. After she graduates from ISU next December, Wibe plans to pursue her master’s degree in environmental engineering.