First Nations internship at NASA for engineering student Lincoln Bourke

17 August 2023
Lincoln joins the first student group at the National Indigenous Space Academy
Lincoln Bourke, a joint engineering and physics student, will spend 10 weeks at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory exploring how equipment could interact with the surface of other planets.
Lincoln Bourke.

Lincoln Bourke. Photo: Monash University

Limilngan and Mudburra man, Lincoln Bourke will next week join four other Indigenous students on the trip of a lifetime to the United States to start an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Mr Bourke, a student in the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and School of Physics, has been chosen as part of the first cohort for the National Indigenous Space Academy, based at Monash University and supported by the Australian Space Agency and NASA, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The pioneering group of students was announced on Monday by National Indigenous Space Academy lead and proud Wadjak/Ballardong Noongar man Professor Christopher Lawrence from Monash University in the presence of the Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo and United States Consul General Kathleen Lively.

Lincoln Bourke said: “I decided to apply for the National Indigenous Space Academy for the excellent opportunity it presents to intern overseas at a world-class institution, JPL, and to represent Indigenous people, to show our successes and achievements.

“My project at JPL is on how equipment could interact with the surface of extraterrestrial worlds. Through this I’ll gain technical skills in mechatronics and robotics, but also soft skills such as problem-solving, team work and communication that I can bring back and apply to future work.”

NASA bound: Lincoln Bourke

Dr Mitch Bryson
, Director of Mechatronics in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sydney, said: “Lincoln is an exceptional student and one of the brightest stars in our mechatronics program. We are very excited to see him take up this opportunity, in which he will be working at the cutting edge of robotic space exploration missions at NASA JPL.”

The two female and three male First Nations students will be mentored by a scientist or engineer at NASA’s JPL in California for a 10-week internship. They will complete projects outlined by their mentors while also contributing to current NASA JPL missions.

Before flying out to the United States, the students will attend Monash’s Faculty of IT ‘Space Boot Camp’ internship preparation program to familiarise themselves with aerodynamics, robotics, rovers, astrophysics, planetary science, engineering, computer and earth sciences, as well as past and current space exploration missions at NASA.

Dr Rod Fiford, Associate Head of School (Undergraduate Education) for Aerospace Engineering, said: “We are extremely proud of Lincoln’s achievement of being selected into the prestigious First Nations internship program at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Lincoln is studying a combined degree with Science (Physics) and Mechatronic (Space) Engineering and is an inspirational role model for young Indigenous Australians and his fellow students.

“We are excited for the future of Space Engineering here in Australia, which will be guided in part by student engineers such as Lincoln.” 

Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said developing a diverse STEM workforce is a priority of the Agency and the Australian Government.

“These students are going to be exposed to cutting-edge space missions and will develop knowledge and skills they can bring home to our space and tech community,” Mr Palermo said.

“As we continue to grow our space sector here at home, we have an opportunity to do that in a uniquely Australian way by embracing thousands of years of First Nations knowledge in making sense of the land, by looking to the sky.”

Lincoln Bourke (second from left) with other internship participants. They were joined by Professor Christopher Lawrence (centre) from Monash; Director of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo (left of centre); and the US Consul-General in Melbourne Kathleen Lively (right of centre). Photo: Monash University


The Monash University program is supported by the Australian Space Agency and NASA.