Avery Renshaw had her head in the clouds last summer.

The environmental science and studies major spent eight weeks in NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program, a selective internship for earth science studies.

“I was paid by NASA to spend the summer in California with 31 other STEM undergrads, collecting atmospheric data in research aircraft and conducting individual earth and atmospheric science research projects,” says Renshaw, who is an Honors College student.

I was paid by NASA to collect data in research aircraft.

Airborne students were divided into four groups—atmospheric chemistry, air sampling, land ecology and oceanographic processes. Part of the oceans group, Renshaw focused on using satellites to detect and map the decline of a kelp species. Previously, satellite detection was thought to be unreliable. “I proved that wrong,” she notes.

During the first two weeks, she and the other interns attended lectures on earth and atmospheric sciences and collected data aboard two NASA research aircraft. Then they spent the next six weeks analyzing and interpreting data at University of California, Irvine.

“This was both the most enriching and unbelievably fun experience I’ve ever had,” Renshaw says.