Undergrad wins NSSP scholarship and secures full-time job ahead of senior year
Mariah Harris has always enjoyed design projects and solving tough problems – so studying engineering at Johns Hopkins seemed like a no-brainer. But like many freshmen, she just wasn’t sure which type of engineering was the right fit for her.
Now in her senior year as a mechanical engineering major, Harris has certainly found her engineering niche in robotics. She’s also snagged a unique opportunity to put what she’s learned to the test in the national defense and security field.
Last spring, Harris was selected for the competitive National Security Scholars Program (NSSP). The scholarship provides recipients with funding, national security clearance, and a paid summer internship. Harris spent her summer as an intern at Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, a global defense and aerospace company headquartered in Linthicum, Maryland.
Thanks to NSSP and some hard work, Harris has already secured a full-time job at Northrop Grumman following graduation. She also plans to continue her studies at Hopkins and pursue her MSE in Robotics.
Originally from Fairfax, Virginia, Harris serves as president of the Women of Mechanical Engineering Network at JHU, which supports women in the Mechanical Engineering department. She’s an active member of the Volunteers for Medical Engineering (VME) chapter at JHU, where she designs assistive technology solutions to help people living with disabilities.
Harris sat down with us and answered a few questions about her internship and her Hopkins experience.
Q: What made you want to apply for the NSSP Scholar Program? How do you think the program will help you reach your goals?
A: Soon after attending the information session with the NSSP representatives, I knew that I wanted to apply for the scholarship. I was excited not just for the monetary benefits and national security clearance, but also for a chance to intern and network at one of eleven leading defense companies. Thanks to my internship, I’ve been offered a full-time position at Northrop Grumman, in their Undersea Systems division, after I graduate. The National Security Scholars Program has really opened the door for me to start a mechanical engineering/robotics career in the defense industry.
Q: What was your biggest takeaway from your internship at Northrop Grumman?
A: One of my biggest takeaways from this internship is that it pays off to speak up and share my ideas. For example, I saw room for improvement for some of the mechanisms within the original system. After drawing up and presenting my efficient and cost-effective solutions to my managers and team, they are considering moving forward with some of them.
In addition to mechanical design experience, I had the opportunity to contribute towards the development of the government project proposals. I was blown away by how much work, research, and planning needs to be done before a project is even won and funded by the customer.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in your senior year?
A: I’m really looking forward to working with Space Telescope Science Institute for my Mechanical Engineering Senior Design project. My team will be designing piezo-actuated device to demonstrate manufacturability and nanometer-scale control of segmented parabolic telescope mirror.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about your undergraduate experience at Hopkins?
A: One of the things that I have enjoyed most about my undergraduate experience is the people that I have met in and outside of classes. It’s great to be a part of such a collaborative and goal-driven environment. For example, I’ve been a member of the club volleyball team at Hopkins since my freshman year, and that’s been a great way to stay active and hang out with an awesome group of friends. I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet some of my closest friends in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Another thing that I have enjoyed about Hopkins is the access to resources. I’ve gotten so much out of my design projects and labs because we’re given the opportunity to learn by actually getting our hands dirty and designing/building real products. Some of my favorite projects were the crane, the heat exchanger, and the hockey playing robot.