Assessing the MMA Intern Program’s Impact on Science

Sponsor: Maria Mitchell Association
Sponsor Liaison: Joanna Roche
Student Team: Michael Conroy, Alysha Creelman, Taylor Fiore, Joshua Keselman

The goal of this project was to evaluate and publicize the impact of the Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) interns on science. We compiled a list of all former MMA interns, distributed a survey about their internship, and conducted a series of interviews with select interns. Data from these surveys and interviews was used to create a large database of former interns, as well as infographics and profiles highlighting the impact of MMA internship alumni on science. After analyzing this data, we recommend that the MMA implement yearly updates to this intern database, incorporate intern alumni into their programming, and improve the internship program itself by expanding opportunities for research, collaboration, and mentor engagement.

Link: Final Report, Report Appendices, Presentation

Executive Summary

The Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) was founded in 1902 to preserve the legacy of Maria Mitchell, America’s first female professional astronomer. Mitchell was a lifelong researcher and educator who sought to create opportunities for all to study science; she taught the importance of curiosity and real-world experimentation (Maria Mitchell Association, 2023). Since 1914, the MMA has offered internship opportunities in the fields of astronomy, education, marine science, natural science, historic preservation, and administration to continue Mitchell’s legacy of hands-on learning. These internships have been especially successful in supporting women in science, who have traditionally been underrepresented, further supporting Maria Mitchell’s goal of equality in education (Martinez & Christnacht, 2021).

Internships like those offered by the MMA can have a lasting impact on students. These internships give undergraduates the chance to gain real-world research experience that can improve their job prospects (Nunley, et al., 2016), help them determine their ideal major and career path (Galbraith & Mondal, 2020), and provide them with valuable skills and academic tools they can use in their academic and professional work (Binder, et al., n.d.). Since its inception, over 850 interns have participated in the MMA internship program, representing those with the same curiosity and love of the natural world that Maria Mitchell espoused. To best support and publicize this program, the MMA would like a record of the experiences of these interns during their internship and beyond, and their impact on science.

Goals and Objectives

The goal of this project was to compile a digital database of interns’ experiences during their time at the MMA and assess the interns’ impact on science.

To accomplish our goal, we identified four objectives.

  1. Collect data through independent research, surveys, and interviews on how the MMA internship shaped the interns’ career choices, and professional and academic accomplishments.
  2. Develop a comprehensive database of intern information, as well as instructions for how the MMA can update and maintain the database.
  3. Create detailed profiles of a select group of MMA interns that the organization can use for fundraising and promotional purposes.
  4. Design infographics to highlight historical trends and display the measurable impact of the MMA internship program on the scientific community.


To complete these objectives, we conducted independent research to create an initial database of former interns’ names and available contact information, distributed a survey to these interns asking questions about their experiences at the MMA and accomplishments after their internship, and conducted a small number of interviews to gain in-depth insight into the stories of a select group of former interns.

Using the information we gathered, we created a series of infographics highlighting interesting or surprising statistics about the success of the internship program and accomplishments of former interns. We also created a small number of profiles that gave in-depth overviews of specific interns’ experiences and career achievements. Finally, we compiled all information from research, survey responses, and interviews into a single database to be given to the MMA for future use.


After we completed our initial research, we were able to identify the names and internship types of 859 former interns. Of the 859 interns identified in this study, 430 were in the field of astronomy, 247 were education, 89 were marine science, 64 were natural science, 16 were historic preservation, and 13 were administration. In total, we received 190 survey responses with 511 survey invite links sent (a response rate of 37%). These responses covered all six internship fields, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Breakdown of survey respondents by internship field

Interviews were conducted with 22 interns, with representatives from years between 1964 and 2022. At least one intern from each internship type was interviewed, with 10 interviewees in the field of astronomy, 4 in natural science, 4 in marine science, 2 in education, 1 in historic preservation, and 1 in administration. We used these interviews to create detailed profiles of a select group of 12 interns, combining their biographical information with stories and quotes from these interviews to highlight their unique places in the history of the MMA.

We created two Excel workbooks, one containing data from our research and one containing data from survey responses. The first workbook contains raw data from our research, with publicly available information about former interns. The second workbook contains information taken from survey responses; to maintain the confidentiality of survey respondents, all identifiable information was kept separate from opinion-based survey responses. All sheets with identifiable information are easily sortable by a variety of information, including name, internship type, and internship year (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Screenshot of “Intern Identifiable Data” sheet

Our core findings included the satisfaction of interns with their internship. Satisfaction ratings for the program were high across fields, with 98% (174 of 177) of respondents indicating that their overall MMA experience was positive. Many respondents also stated that the internship experience was valuable to them, influenced their career decisions (shown in Figure 3), and provided them with transferable skills.

Figure 3. Percent of survey respondents in each field that agreed with the statement “My MMA experience influenced my career decisions.”


We also examined the measurable impact of the Maria Mitchell Association internship program on science. Results from survey responses regarding career achievements and impact on science were combined into infographics, including Figure 4.

Figure 4. Sample infographic highlighting the success of MMA astronomy interns


To continue this project in the future, we identified two main areas for future project work:

  1. Additional intern interviews with interns who we were unable to contact during this project.
  2. Updated survey questions that add or clarify information, or streamline answer inputs for respondents.

Based on the team’s methodology and responses from the survey, the team has created a list of recommendations for the Maria Mitchell Association to be able to keep up to date on the contact information of former interns and retain interest from program alumni. These recommendations are as follows:

  1. Update intern alumni database with each year’s interns
  2. Reach out to update information on a regular basis
  3. Hold regular alumni events
  4. Leverage social media to connect with alumni

Portions of the survey asked questions pertaining to issues that former interns had with their internship and how they would have liked to see it changed. These responses were used to offer insight into what recommendations we could give to the Maria Mitchell Association to make the internship program as successful as possible in the future. These recommendations are as follows:

  1. Further opportunities for research in other internship fields
  2. More interaction between interns of different fields
  3. Increased oversight and guidance throughout the internship

One question that was asked to former interns was what type of internship they believed the MMA should add to their program. Based on survey responses, we recommend exploring internships in the following areas:

  1. Non-profit Financials
  2. Indigenous History and Natural Practices
  3. Geological Studies