Aerospace Engineering Internship Story: Aerospace Industry + Department of Defense SMART Scholarship


Lila Saunders

Aerospace Engineering

What company did you intern with and where are they located?

I interned with

  • Jacobs Technology Inc. in Tullahoma, TN the summer of my freshman year,
  • GE Aerospace in Cincinnati, OH the summer of my sophomore year,
  • The Research and Analysis Center at White Sands Missile Range, NM (TRAC-WSMR) the summer of my junior year.

I graduated in May of 2023 and begin full-time employment with TRAC-WSMR in July of 2023.

What was your path to full-time employment with TRAC-WSMR?

My path to my position at TRAC-WSMR was a bit out of the ordinary. My sophomore year, finances became much more strained, and I needed a bigger scholarship in order to stay at Auburn since I am an out-of-state student. I literally googled “big scholarships” and came across the Department of Defense SMART Scholarship for students in STEM. In essence, it is a deal with the Department of Defense where they pay for your school in entirety, along with a monthly living stipend to help cover rent, food, and general costs of living/school. Following college, you work for Department of Defense for the amount of time that your school was paid for. It is an excellent opportunity to obtain free school and a guaranteed excellent job as a civilian with the Department of Defense. I applied sophomore year and was accepted. I chose TRAC-WSMR as my sponsoring Department of Defense facility, which is where I will go in just a few weeks. If anyone else is in the same situation I was in and is interested in defense work, this could be the perfect route for you to take. If this could be a fit for you, the SMART Scholarship application opens on August 1st, 2023!

How did you identify and apply for your internship? Are there any specific resources you used to find the opportunity (i.e. Handshake, career fairs, other recruitment events)?

Finding the internship opportunities came down to me scouring the internet for companies and positions that interested me. Prior to applying to all three of my internships, I visited the Career Development and Corporate Relations office (CDCR) and showed them my resume for critiquing. I explained the position I was applying for, and the lovely people in the office helped me curate and shape my resume to what my goal companies were looking for. For example, all of my internships preferred a clean, concise, and more “Department of Defense” style resume, and the CDCR helped me make it. They know what companies screen for and how to create a resume that grabs the reader's attention quickly.  

What was the application process like?

Most of the applications I completed were pretty simple as far as internships go. They usually ask for basic personal information, a resume, and often a cover letter. From there it is a waiting game. With a great resume, though, your odds of a preliminary call or interview are very high!

Tell us about your internship experience. What types of tasks and projects did you engage in? Was there a particular project or part of the experience you learned the most from?

For all three of my internships, I worked in classified and/or sensitive work, so I cannot give very specific examples. For Jacobs Technology Inc. and TRAC-WSMR I worked on DoD support systems. It was so great to do work that directly impacts the security and well-being of our country. At GE Aerospace, I worked in the sales and systems of the F110 military jet engine. I learned so much about that side of the Aerospace industry and what it takes to be a salesman.

I learned the most from my experience at Jacobs Technology because of being so young at the time. A lot of my work required skills that I hadn’t learned yet in school. I felt as if I learned something new every single day, and it was such a rewarding feeling! It also taught me what I liked to do. Just as importantly, GE Aerospace taught me that I preferred a more mechanical day-to-day work experience rather than a job that involves sales.

In what ways did this internship help you prepare for your next destination after Auburn?

My internships opened so many doors for me following my graduation from Auburn. Without practical experience, it is so hard to get a foot in the door with companies. Often following an internship, a company will extend an offer for full-time employment. Obtaining multiple internships allows for options – taking off a ton of the stress that job hunting brings about senior year.

In what ways did your coursework or other experiences at Auburn prepare you for your internships? Are there specific topics or skills you learned from classes that you put into practice on the job?

Most of my course work has not been directly related to my internships; however, Auburn engineers learn how to solve problems. This is an engineer’s most valuable skill! Auburn taught me how to take it upon myself to solve a hard problem – a skill that is used every day in an engineering career.

Do you have any advice for other students looking for internships like yours?

My best advice is to apply for all the internships you can (that interest you), and to utilize resources that are available to you such as the CDCR. These people are experts in the exact little piece of paper that you’re trying to create, so who better to review and critique it?