NASA Chief visits JPL

Pasadena Star-News article. Hey, I didn’t know that Mike Griffin formerly worked at JPL.

Griffin, once a JPL engineer, returned after many years to address JPL employees and tour the facility as part of his official round of NASA’s field centers.

I heard he fielded a pointed question about Earth Science. NASA Watch points to several strategy papers, one of which is for earth science.

mission success begins with funding

. . . . .

This reminds me that I still gotta look through my JPL visitor’s day fotos, and write more about it.

There are opportunities for girls

Girl Scouts swarmed the “Ask a Scientist” locations and quizzed scientists and engineers about their work and the opportunities for women in science and engineering. I witnessed this up close when they were asking questions of E.C., a colleage of Doc M’s. (Heck, I should call her Doc C. [She’s the Doc C with the moxie—ed]) Who were her mentors? Did she experience any opposition to studying science and engineering when she was in high school? What did she like the best about what she does? (manipulating data) What does she like least? (Going to meetings. Cost estimates. Gantt charts.)

Another question that sparked collegial discussion betwen Doc M and Doc C… What’s the difference between a scientist and an engineer? It provoked occasional comment even unto the next day. So let me mangle it here: The scientist is interested in the whys of the how the world works, the engineer designs and builds stuff to help the scientist collect data and find answers to the questions. Oh, and engineering always—always— consists of tradeoffs and compromise (budgets, physical constraints of power, or mass, especially with spaceborne equipment).

Doc M and I went to the multimedia presentation in VonKarman auditorium. My first time in there; I recognized it from watching myriad Mars Rover press conferences. Before watching a 20-minute film, we were welcomed by someone-or-other who addressed questions to the younger set. Have you visited our web site? Do you think you might want to be an engineer? And for you girls, there are lots of opportunities for women in science and engineering; be sure to ask questions of the women engineers you see here at the lab today.

In light of comments here and there that I’ve read about “why aren’t there more females in science/engineering/technology” it was good to see this very pointed effort, both on the part of the lab, and on the local Girl Scout organization.

4 responses to “NASA Chief visits JPL”

  1. Dori

    Why oh why, can’t I, just once read a piece about girls being encouraged to go into a sci/tech field that isn’t in decline? Or is there a better category than this one?

  2. Susan A. Kitchens

    Re: the right category… I dunno on that one. (Trying to think of other categories: astrobiology? Astronomy? Dunno… I’ll have to ask Doc M and Doc C.)

    Yeah, the news of Mike Griffin’s visits to various NASA centers underscores the Great Budgetary Fears and downsizing and all that. (which proves your point) [aah. reminds of me an image I wanted to post from JPL visitor day]. Done.

    NASAWatch points to a (happily) contrarian piece: A prediction of rennaissance in space exploration.

    But who knows? The X-prize-driven independent development may breathe new life into things that seemed ossified by cutbacks and federally funded pseudo-science boondoggles (i.e, the space station).

  3. Katrina

    My story is the cautionary tale from the other side. I was a good math/science student all the way through school. I never received any prejudice towards me as a girl in these supposedly “male-oriented” fields; in fact, I was never even aware that this bias existed anywhere until after I graduated high school. Maybe I was just fortunate that I never had a teacher who thought I couldn’t do it “because you’re a girl.”

    At any rate, I was so good at math and science that throughout my school career, from elementary school forward, I was being encouraged, even pressured, to look at scientific careers. The most popular suggestion, when I was in high school, was, “You should be a chemical engineer.”

    Only I couldn’t think of anything more boring than sitting in front of a computer all day, staring at atoms.

    The funny thing is, I now make a living sitting in front of a computer screen–only I’m designing documents and advertisements and animated Web graphics, instead of chemical compounds.

    See, when I was a kid, I was actually disappointed when I took a left-brain/right-brain test…and came out on the left-brain side. My entire life, I’ve secretly wanted to be an artist, not a scientist or an engineer.

    So now I make my living in design, and I do theatre for fun. And I’m pretty happy.

    So if a girl is talented in math and science–and that’s what she wants to do with her life–then I say, absolutely, support her. But if her dreams lie elsewhere, then I say let her live out her dreams. I aced every math or science course I ever took (except for geometry–I got a B). But that’s not where my heart is. I’m much happier on stage than I’d ever be in the lab!

    Follow your dreams, I say, no matter what.

  4. Susan A. Kitchens

    Katrina, there’s a woman in my motion graphics class at the local community college. She’s way deep in the graphic art/design/new media track there. She told me that she’d previously studied engineering for 3 years—encouraged by the good grades, aptitude, etc., but, in the end, she just hated it. Is doing graphics and loving it.

    Of course, I never went down the uber-tech route myself… just have been skirting around the side of it for a little over a decade or so. And recently came to the decision that I don’t want to pursue more programming (php)… gotta accept my limits.