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Charlotte student earns prestigious NASA internship

By Crystal O’Gorman
Correspondent

Kaveh Darafsheh, a south Charlotte resident who lives off Providence Road, will work as an intern this summer for NASA through the Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholars program.

Also known as LARSS, the paid internship program is offered through NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math are given the opportunity to work with scientists and engineers who do research and development to advance space exploration.

According to the LARSS website, the program receives approximately 1,000 applicants per year, accepting only 200. In 2011, Vault Career Intelligence – a professional career resource – named LARSS one of the top 10 internship programs in the U.S.

The LARSS program consists of three internship sessions; Darafsheh has been accepted into the summer session, a 10-week program beginning June 3.

Darafsheh, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Computer Science at East Carolina University, said he knew about the program because his brother, Arash, who graduated from UNC Charlotte with a doctorate in optics, participated last summer.

Darafsheh also said he has been interested in NASA since 2009, when he saw the Discovery Science Channel’s documentary “Moon Machines,” detailing the development of the command module during the Apollo program.

“What people see is one person dangling on the moon, but it was the collaborative effort of 400,000 people,” he said.

It was a culmination of that collaborative effort, the precision of those involved and the technological advancements that sparked Darafsheh’s interest. Darafsheh will be working in the internship under mentor and Langley engineer Mahyar Malekpour implementing an application for distributed network synchronization.

Darafsheh said he believes his work as a graduate research assistant under East Carolina University Professor of Software Engineering and Computer Science Dr. Junhua Ding where he tested remote medical-grade hearing applications and devices – helped him get accepted into the position.

Jennifer Jacobs, an administrative support assistant in the Department of Computer Science at ECU, said, “Kaveh Darafsheh is truly one of our rising stars. He has not only maintained a straight-A 4.0 average but he has been inquisitive, hardworking, and has made a point to become involved in team projects and work as a graduate research assistant and graduate teaching assistant. He loves to conduct research, read and improve his and others’ situations in academia and beyond.”

Darafsheh is originally from Tehran, Iran. His family moved to Charlotte when he was 16. He graduated from Myers Park High School in 2003, where he was a part of the honor society and took his first IT class: computer programming.

Darafsheh received a bachelor of science degree in computer engineering from UNC Charlotte in May 2009. While at UNCC, he also was involved in the Charlotte Area Robotics Club and the Charlotte Programming Union. He also interned at Hand Held Products Inc. – now a division of Honeywell – for three months, working on the automation and performance of wireless devices.

In summer 2011, Darafsheh taught a free computer basics course at his church, Wesley United Methodist Church on Rea Road. He then attended East Carolina University in fall 2012. At ECU, he is a part of the school’s Dean of the College of Technology and Computer Science’s Student Leadership Advisory Council and expects to graduate with a master’s in computer science in spring 2014.

As for his future, 27-year-old Darafsheh said he is keeping his options open. He believes the NASA internship will provide “a valuable hands-on experience and a great networking opportunity.”

He also admits that, after graduating, he would love to work for a large IT company like Google or Intel Corp. He also hopes to receive his doctorate in computer science and become a professor.

Crystal O’Gorman is a freelance writer. Got a story idea for Crystal? Email her at crystalogormanwrites@gmail.com.
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