The Student Independent Research Internship (SIRI) program was conceived during late spring and early summer, 2003, by Ralph Kahn (Lead Scientist, Earth & Planetary Atmospheres, Division 32), Richard Alvidrez and William Whitney (JPL Education Office, section 185).
It aimed at addressing several interests:
Local college students' desires, with strong support from their faculty advisors, to gain hands-on experience in scientific research and engineering while they are still forming their higher-education and career plans.
JPL scientists' desire to have more interaction with students.
JPL and NASA education office interests in providing more help to college students in preparing for careers in science and engineering.
The JPL education office hosted a summit meeting of JPL and local college representatives on July 14, 2003, at which the SIRI program guidelines were developed. The first SIRI class, covering fall 2003, was a pilot group capped at eight students, who came from Glendale college and Pasadena city college. The introductory dinner was took place at Caltech on October 3, 2003, and work began the following week at JPL.
For Spring 2004, the program grew to 12 new students from four colleges. In addition, several Fall 2003 interns, with the support of their JPL mentors, saw educational and technical benefits to continuing work on their SIRI projects. So the Research Apprenticeship (RA) program was created, by the JPL SIRI organizers, along with faculty and administrative representatives from Glendale College and PCC, and with the help of the JPL subcontracts office. The apprenticeship program, which requires that students first gain experience as JPL interns, began with two students. Both SIRI and the apprenticeship program continue, under the auspices of the JPL Education Office.