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ODU M&S Engineering Student Earns NASA Internship

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Christine Odenwald needs only to look around her classes, and her internship at NASA, to confirm she is a relative anomaly as a female engineer.

But the 19-year-old Old Dominion University modeling and simulation engineering student has always had non-stereotypical interests. She's an avid video gamer and competitive soccer referee. She has also taken strongly to her studies at the University, earning a prestigious internship working in virtual and augmented reality at NASA Langley Research Center.

"It's amazing. I ultimately hope to work for NASA as a career, and I'm already here in my dream job in my internship," said Odenwald, who completed the International Baccalaureate program at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake.

Her internship is part of NASA's National Internships, Fellowships & Scholarships program. It involves research, education and outreach about how the space agency can utilize virtual and augmented reality technologies. The internship was originally for the spring semester, but Odenwald has won an extension through the summer.

"It's a great opportunity to go to work there every day," she said.

"She is definitely a shining star in our department," said Rick McKenzie, chair of the Department of Modeling, Simulation & Visualization Engineering (MSVE). "I always see her smiling and enthusiastic and willing to help. No doubt she will be a leader in our community and the nation in the future."

Odenwald said Old Dominion has been a perfect match for her interests. Two summers ago, she took part in the Engineering Early Advantage Program (EEAP), an initiative launched a decade ago to acclimate rising female freshman engineering students to the rigors of a program where they will be far outnumbered by their male counterparts.

"It helped me so much to find and make friends with other female engineering students before I even started classes," Odenwald said. "How great is it that the University has such a program?"

Bev Forbes, interim director of Career Development Services at Old Dominion, facilitates the EEAP.

"I remember meeting Christine and her parents at Admitted Students Day in the spring of 2015, and she has been the model student to demonstrate that engaged students are successful students," Forbes said.

"Christine has continued to be active within and outside of the classroom," Forbes said. "Because of her love for ODU and her success, she was featured in the Career Development Services presentation at Admitted Students Day 2017, talking with new Monarchs and their families about her journey and her future."

In addition to maintaining a 3.97 grade point average as a rising junior, Odenwald received the 2016 John Bolino Scholarship and the 2017 VMASC Gene Newman Scholarship.

"Christine is an outstanding young scholar," said Tammy Hanna, academic adviser and program manager with the modeling and simulation department. "There is no doubt that she has a bright future. In addition to being an outstanding student, she is among the first to step up to assist her classmates and the department. It is a privilege and pleasure to have such an outstanding young scholar on our MSVE team."

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