23Sep2014

Women in Space – Inspirational Biographies

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Men often outnumber women working in aviation. Even though this may be the case, it is still important to encourage more women to enter the aviation industry.The future in space is wide open now for women.

Many of the women working in the aviation and aerospace industry do administrative type jobs, working in human resources for example however in recent times more women have been launching themselves into space and engineering spacecraft safety for the future.

Specifically in aviation itself, women are under-represented which creates a huge gender imbalance, not only in the UK but also worldwide. This in turn may discourage more women from entering the industry meaning many women may feel outnumbered and therefore choose a different career path where the ratio of men to women is more even. It is important though to have women working in aviation, not only to provide role models for the future but to also make it a more representative industry. It is important for younger girls to aspire to be like their role models but how will they know whom to look up to if they do not ever see or hear of any female pilots? This makes it really important to encourage more females to enter the industry; it will aid in the gender imbalance situation and also will in turn encourage more women to choose a career pathway in space aviation.

The Working Space Woman of Today

Did you know that currently in the UK alone only 3.3% of licensed air transport pilots are female? There are also a lower number of women working in aerospace than engineering. Only 11% work in aerospace, compared with 19% in engineering. Even so, these statistics are still low in the number of women working in these industries. Though this may be the case, the numbers of women in these fields of work are slowly rising.

Historic Heroines

The Telegraph’s aerospace and engineering team recently created a female database to help branch out awareness of women working in the space industry. The Telegraph Jobs Women in Space online database is filled with inspirational women that have worked in aerospace and engineering as well as other STEM related job sectors. This resource allows viewers to read about and view the various stories behind many high achieving women that have succeeded in the industry. Each of the stories is different from one another, which makes it very interesting to read about. It shows all the women that have made an impact in the industry (flying on space missions) to making history today (the modern marvels) helping propel astronauts into space and engineering space activity.

For those looking to work in aerospace or any of the STEM industries (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) this resource can give the inspiration to many people. Each of the women featured on the database show the pathway they took to reach where they are today and this allows individuals to gain an understanding of how the industry works and the personal adventures encountered and challenges faced.

For females especially, this resource is a huge motivation to success. These are the women that you rarely hear about on the news yet are making history. These are the women that have undertaken some ground-breaking research all the way up in space or have influenced the processes surrounding research. The aim of this online resource is not only to inspire more females to work in any of the industries, but to show that there are women out there that have worked so hard to get to where they are today.

Space Future

As you will see on the Telegraph Jobs Women in Space database there are many paths to follow. Maybe you will consider working in space flight safety like Mary Ann Esfandiari. She first began her career at NASA in 1974, working in a microelectronics lab. Since then she has worked her way up and is now the Deputy Associate of Flight Projects for Space Communication and Exploration. Her job role makes her responsible for operations, which help sustain the active Space Network, also known as the earth-orbiting satellites. This job role is hugely important, as there are so many satellites out there; they all need to be maintained in order to monitor their safety.

Modern Marvels Engineering

Or maybe you will pursue the career path of Kathleen Howell, another woman who works with flight safety in the aerospace industry. As part of her job role, she is responsible for a number of factors, which keep the safety standards as high as possible. Not only does she work in aircraft maintenance by enabling modifications, she also does a lot of planning and is required to obtain many flight approvals. All of these duties make sure that others working alongside her are kept in a safe environment, which just shows the importance of her job role.

Rosa Obregon is a mechanical test operations engineer conducting space rocket trails and Anita Sengupta is responsible developing, launching and testing an ultra-cold quantum gas facility due to blast off to space ion 2016!  Working in the space industry is fascinating so do explore the Women in Space and think about your space career today.

City College professor brings stars to her students

Lisa Will

The universe may be mysterious, but Lisa Will can at least make it relatable. She’s an astronomy and physics professor at San Diego City College, which recently opened a new science building and planetarium.

The Pacific Beach resident is also the resident astronomer at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, where she presents monthly “Sky Tonight” planetarium shows.

Will, 43, was born in Northern California, lived in Arizona while she earned her doctorate from Arizona State and landed in San Diego in 2007. She tells us about her star-filled life.

Q: What inspired you to study astronomy?

A: “Star Trek.” I vividly remember being around 5 years old and looking up Vulcan in the encyclopedia, expecting to learn more about the planet. Instead I found the Roman god of fire and forge. That led me to looking up other things, like planets and stars, saddened that interstellar space travel and aliens were not, in fact, a part of our reality. But it also set me on a path of learning about astronomy.

Q: You’re also a physics professor. Can you explain, in layman terms, how physics and astronomy work together?

A: Physics is the study of how the things work. In astronomy, we use physics to study how the universe functions. The most amazing thing about physics is how widely applicable it is. For example, the Doppler effect used to track the path of storms is the same physics that describes the redshifts of galaxies, which is how we first learned the universe is expanding. I try to stress that breadth to help my students appreciate physics.

Q: Tell us a bit about City College’s new planetarium.

A: Due to the generosity of voters who passed Propositions S and N, City College now has a new science building, which first opened for classes in spring 2014. This facility provides the modern classrooms and science laboratories that the hardworking students of City College deserve. As part of this building, an 80-seat Spitz SciDome HD planetarium was included to serve both as the Astronomy 101 lecture hall and a space for public-outreach events.

Q: Have you had to change the way you teach now that you have use of the planetarium?

A: Oh, yes, and it’s been wonderful. The planetarium allows us to show the sky move — the rising and setting of the sun, the changing of the constellations throughout the year, the height of the sun in the sky as the seasons progress. We can also use the planetarium to fly to the moon and land on Mars and see what our galaxy looks like from afar. It’s a much more immersive learning environment than static images can provide.

Q: An astronomy class is more than just learning where stars are, right?

A: Astronomy is the study of the universe. We do learn about stars, but we also learn about other celestial objects, such as the solar system, distant galaxies and black holes. I introduce the students to the history of how we learned our place in the cosmos, and the last thing we cover is to predict the fate of the universe itself! Astronomy is a wide-ranging field of study, and my goal is for every student to leave the course with an appreciation of how we can learn so much even landlocked here on Earth.

Q: Do you have a favorite planet? If so, what and why? How about a favorite constellation?

A: Saturn is my favorite planet because it is unbelievably beautiful. One of the best parts of teaching astronomy is helping people observe Saturn through a telescope for the first time. I’ve watched as people double-check to see if we’ve pasted a photo in the telescope itself, because Saturn looks so perfect. My favorite constellation is Orion, which is full of star-forming regions and nebulae, is easy to point out in the sky and is just gorgeous.

Q: What do you think about the push for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, especially among girls?

A: My high school physics teacher refused my first request for a letter of recommendation for my college applications, because, in his words, “girls don’t go into physics.” At the various institutions where I’ve taught, I’ve heard stories from young women who have been steered away from STEM degrees by counselors or family members. Do not underestimate how pervasive “science is not for girls” is in our society. Encouraging everyone, particularly girls, to pursue their goals in STEM fields is important to me. I try to be a role model at work, and I also do science outreach, giving public talks and planetarium shows and being on science-related panels at venues such as San Diego Comic-Con, Phoenix Comicon and GeekGirlCon.

Q: What’s a common misconception about astronomy? What about physics?

A: A lot of students take astronomy because they think it will be an easy class. It’s the study of the entire universe — it’s challenging and amazing simultaneously! As for physics, I think most people expect it to be sterile, when it’s actually a very creative and exciting field.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: A day of walks along the beach or through Balboa Park, grabbing tacos for dinner, and curling up on the couch with my husband and dogs to watch “Doctor Who” or “Sherlock.” Oh, wait, my ideal San Diego weekend is Comic-Con!  Source: UT San Deigo

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