NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars

Nicole Schoenstein: Lessons in Fighting Hard and Moving Forward

Nicole SchoensteinNicole Schoenstein was born Pomona, NJ and grew up in Absecon and Galloway NJ. She is a graduate of Atlantic Cape Community College and currently a student at Stockton University. Nicole studies psychology with a focus on cognition and behavioral neuroscience. After graduation, her goal is to work with Human Factors or Education at NASA.

She describes herself as a naturally curious person, intrigued by the unknown with respect for those in the space industry. She appreciates their ability to gain knowledge and apply it on earth, as well as pioneer new solar systems.

Nicole learned about NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) through her role as president of an honor society at Atlantic Cape. She does not have a background in a STEM field, but was fascinated by the thought of learning more about science and space. However, Nicole didn’t think she would succeed in the program. After reading the requirements, she considered dropping out, thinking she could not compete with other STEM students. Ultimately, she decided to persevere and earned a perfect score on every assignment in the online portion of the course.

In 2011, Nicole became one of the 48 students out of 220 applicants invited to participate in the on-site portion of the program at Marshall Space Flight Center. According to Nicole, her team was diverse and dynamic, and she considered herself the consultant of the group.

Through NCAS, Nicole also learned about the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. She co-led a multi-state team to participate in the competition and collaborated with a team member to develop an outreach program for underserved communities.

Nicole, impacted by her work with K-12 students, said, "I'll never forget the looks on their eager faces, the thirst for knowledge, as the students learned about science and participated in class experiments."

These NASA experiences led her to pursue an internship offer at Johnson Space Center where she worked with the Office of Education.

"[This] internship was life-changing," Nicole said. "I woke up each day wanting to come to work, which I think is saying something."

Nicole has overcome many obstacles that she says other non-traditional students can relate to. This includes the death of her mother, the birth of her son, a complicated living situation, and being the sole financial provider for her family. Nicole had to gain the confidence to attend college and was inspired by her younger sister to pursue higher education.

"I tell you these things to spread this message: stay the course," Nicole said. "NCAS is challenging and requires time management skills, but the payoff is enormous."

Through her experiences, Nicole was able to complete consecutive fall and spring internships with the Flight Crew Integration (FCI) and Operational Habitability (OpsHab) team. While completing her spring internship, Nicole received a job offer from the FCI and OpsHab teams and will return this fall as a full time employee. Her duties will include supporting ISS post flight crew debriefs, the Payload Label Approval Team and The Human Factors Implementation Team