NASA
Women in Science

We celebrate women in STEM, (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) both acknowledged and unknown, for their role in the exploration of the world and Universe around us.

The history of women's contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is long and varied. But it has also often been overlooked or underrepresented. This series highlights only a very few of the women who have made important discoveries and have had a crucial impact on STEM fields. This, however, is not just a look into the past. Today, women are in every STEM discipline, in every type of job, and represent the widest range of background and experiences.

Hypatia Ada Lovelace Grace Hopper

Melba Roy Katherine Johnson Eileen Collins

Cady Coleman Annie Easley Mary Jackson
“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” −Grace Hopper

Women in Chandra’s High Energy Universe

Since its launch on July 23, 1999, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has been NASA’s flagship mission for X-ray astronomy, taking its place in the fleet of “Great Observatories.” Who are some of the women behind the scenes for this extraordinary piece of equipment that helps us see our Universe in a whole new light? Meet some of the scientists, technologists and designers who contribute to the pursuit of understanding the Universe through high-energy astrophysics.


BELINDA WILKES

BELINDA WILKES

Chandra X-ray Center Director

Director of Chandra X-ray Center & senior astrophysicist who specializes in the study of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies.

My advice to anyone who might be interested in pursuing a career similar to mine is this: follow your heart and your abilities rather than a specific career path. Plan the next step(s) along the way, but be flexible−there is always more than one way to get there. Be pro-active. Make sure you are working with good people, but make sure you also like them! If you are not happy, you will not do well.

ANETA SIEMIGINOWSKA

ANETA SIEMIGINOWSKA

Astrophysicist

Astrophysicist in Chandra's Science Data System group who also conducts research into black holes and galaxies.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to learn about stars. The winter sky displayed the entire Universe right in front of me and I wanted to learn and understand the sky and the space. I do not think I understood what it meant to become an astronomer when I was a six year old, but each time somebody asked me what do I want to be when I grew up I answered, I want to be an astronomer.

SAEQA DIL VRTLEK

SAEQA DIL VRTLEK

Astrophysicist

Senior astrophysicist who studies cosmic objects with Chandra and other telescopes while being involved with science education.

I have always enjoyed things related to science. I liked to take things apart and find out how they work −I was always the one fixing radios, vacuum cleaners, etc., around our house. Math was also my favorite subject in school. I try to study objects by looking at all their forms of radiation from visible light to gamma-rays.

GIUSEPPINA FABBIANO

GIUSEPPINA FABBIANO

Astrophysicist

Senior astrophysicist studying galaxies, black holes and the high-energy Universe using Chandra and other telescopes.

I studied physics because I wanted a chance of discovering something new. My mother would have preferred that I studied classics like Latin and Greek, and a favorite uncle [said] perhaps I should look at something more practical. But physics it was. After all these years, I am still working in X-ray astronomy, and having fun with it.

KIMBERLY ARCAND

KIMBERLY ARCAND

Science Visualization

Visualization lead for Chandra

Growing up, I was the kid with the chemistry set, the microscope, and the stellarium as my favorite “toys.” I loved science, or what I thought of as science: the idea of discovering something new, of figuring out puzzles, of contributing to people’s lives in some significant way. Today, I use data to tell stories about science, whether in the form of a 3D model of an exploded star, or a tweet.

JANET DEPONTE EVANS

JANET DEPONTE EVANS

Software Development Manager

Software Development Manager for the Chandra X-ray Center Data System (CXCDS) group, which provides end-to-end scientific software for Chandra’s mission operations.

My interest in astronomy came when looking for a career that combined software development, science and math. I enjoy contributing to [Chandra] knowledge through the software systems that we provide. Any young person seeking a challenging and rewarding career should definitely give astronomy and software engineering a hard look.

KARLA GUARDADO

KARLA GUARDADO

Astrophysicist Technical Assistant

Chandra X-ray Center with a B.S. in Physics from MIT, 2015

I wanted to go into a career in astrophysics because I fell in love with space−its marvels and secrets. I loved every part of my science projects, the investigation, experimentation, and drawing conclusions. If I were to give advice to young girls thinking about a career in science, it would be that a career in science takes a lot of dedication and years of schooling. But if it’s truly what you want to do, go for it. It will be worth it. Set your own limits, don’t let other people do that for you.



“It wasn’t until I went to college and Sally Ride came to talk− it just opened up that possibility of if she could do it then I could aspire to do it too.” -Cady Coleman

 

Blog

EILEEN M. COLLINS

EILEEN M. COLLINS

For Eileen Collins, her journey toward the skies and beyond started in the public library of her hometown Elmira, NY. As a young child and teenager, Eileen consumed books about flying, drawn to the airplanes and missions themselves as well as the engineering of aviation. When Eileen was nine years old, she read an article in Junior Scholastic magazine that profiled the Gemini program and its astronauts.

“I stumbled into the space program by reading magazines, and the flying part by reading books,” said Collins.

After attending a community college, she then moved on to Syracuse University. To help pay for her schooling, Collins joined the Air Force Reserve Office Training Corp (ROTC), but, at that time, women were not allowed to be pilots. Fortuitously, that changed in 1976 while Collins was still working on her undergraduate degree in math and economics. This meant that after graduation, Collins could go directly from Syracuse to pilot training.

After spending over a decade at the Air Force, Collins applied and was accepted to NASA. In 1990, Collins was named a member of the astronaut corps. Three years after becoming an astronaut, Collins became the first female pilot of the Space Shuttle when she flew Discovery on a mission that included a rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir. After piloting another Space Shuttle mission in 1997, Collins was selected to be the commander of STS-93, the first time a woman would ever lead a mission into space.

CADY COLEMAN

CADY COLEMAN

As an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cady Coleman attended a lecture by Sally Ride, the first woman in space. Listening to Ride and being able to shake her hand after the lecture left Coleman with a broader idea of who could be an astronaut. “When I thought about what astronauts looked like, I had in my mind a picture of the Mercury 7 standing in front of an airplane and they were all a bunch of old guys with no hair,” said Coleman. “And it certainly didn’t say to me, this could be you.”

“It wasn’t until I went to college and Sally Ride came to talk, it just opened up that possibility of if she could do it then I could aspire to do it too,” said Coleman. “I remember thinking that it counted that she was well educated and smart, and at the same time she had this job that had adventure and some thrills to it.”

After MIT, Coleman went on to graduate school at UMass Amherst to study chemistry. Another critical encounter for Coleman occurred after graduate school when she was in the Air Force applying for the astronaut program. She was participating in a science day for the community, and Kathy Sullivan, a crewmember of three Space Shuttle missions and the first American woman to walk in space, was the main speaker. Sullivan spent more than an hour speaking with Coleman, who discussed the application process, and gave her advice. Coleman joined the NASA astronaut corps in 1992. She flew her first mission into space in 1995 as a member of the STS-73 crew that included experiments on biotechnology, combustion science, and the physics of fluid. On just her second flight, Coleman was selected to be the mission specialist on STS-93 in 1999 that deployed Chandra out of the Shuttle’s payload bay using its robotic arm.


“My daughter just thinks that all moms fly the Space Shuttle.” −Eileen Collins
Activities
Coding & Astronomy

Coding & Astronomy
Recoloring the Universe
Math & Astronomy

Math & Astronomy
NASA Space Math
Astronomy & 3D Printing

3D Modeling & Astronomy
Universe in 3D

“I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed ... anything that could be counted, I did.” −Katherine Johnson

Resources

NASA Modern Figures Interactive Toolkit
A collection of resources and educational activities for students in grades K-12. www.nasa.gov/modernfigures

NASA Litho
Women of Color, Pioneers & Innovators (2 page PDF)

women@nasa
Through their accomplishments and dedication to their jobs, women at NASA serve as role models to young women in their pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

madewithcode.com
Google’s organization to inspire teen girls to see that code can help them pursue their passions, whatever they may be. Activities and online exercises.

findingada.com
Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is an international celebration day of the achievements of women in STEM, aiming to increase the profile of women in STEM encourage more girls into STEM careers.

White House Untold History of Women in Science & Technology
Listen to women from across the Administration tell the stories of their personal heroes across the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Women in STEM Zine
(Folding Instructions)
Print your own mini zine that highlights some of the accomplishments of scientists, mathematicians and technologists featured on this page in a small portable format.

 

SciGirls: STEM-sational
SciGirls is designed to spark girls’ curiosity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through activities that promote knowledge and discovery.

girlswhocode.com
A national non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology.

Blackgirlscode
A national non-profit organization aiming to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of the coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures.

www.engineergirl.org
The EngineerGirl website is designed to bring national attention to the exciting opportunities that engineering represents for girls and women Contains facts about engineering, career information and other resources.

Smithsonian Institution Archives Women in Science
See all posts tagged with: Wonderful Women Wednesday

Women's History Month 2016
The Library of Congress, National Archives, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, the Smithsonian & US Holocaust Memorial Museum pay tribute to generations of women whose commitment to our planet proved invaluable to society.

FOR FURTHER READING

Books

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race | Margot Lee Shetterly

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars | Nathalia Holt

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World | Rachel Ignotofsky

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars | Dava Sobel

Articles
Women in the High Energy Universe chandra.si.edu/blog/women

Interviews: Eileen Collins, Cady Coleman chandra.si.edu/blog/node/529


For Educators
Download the free poster set to use in your space
Intro
Ada
Hypatia
Eileen
Melba
Annie
Katherine Johnson
Grace
Cady
Mary
Downloadable
Women in STEM Zine



Zine Folding Instructions
folding instructions
Downloadable Resource Guide
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“I’m here to empower the next girl who steps in to her back yard, looks up into the nighttime sky and thinks ‘I want to explore the planets and heavens’ ” −Dava Newman

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Contact Us
cxcpub@cfa.harvard.edu
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Curator/Manager: Kimberly Arcand
Illustration/Art Direction: Kristin DiVona
Web Developer: Khajag Mgrdichian



Developed by the Chandra X-ray Center, at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in Cambridge, MA, with funding by NASA under contract NAS8-03060