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NASA’s Stansbery to give UCD keynote

by Kaylee Conrad

Photo is courtesy of NASA Johnson Space Center

Dr. Eileen K. Stansbery in the Genesis Curator Clean Room dressed in a Dryden HEPA Filter suit holding a collector plate. The collector plate is an ultra-pure array composed of different materials used to extract solar wind atoms.
Dr. Eileen K. Stansbery, chief scientist at NASA, will give the keynote speech at University College Day on Wednesday, April 22.

In an e-mail, Stansbery wrote that the keynote’s subject will be about NASA’s exploration plans as a new era of solar system exploration is developed and it becomes possible to extend human presence into deep space. Her presentation will describe how new capabilities impact exploration plans.

“The growth of new launch capabilities and expanding commercial interest are bringing down the cost of access to space while developing operations and autonomy beyond low Earth orbit will enable new opportunities for discoveries that will be accessible by all,” Stansbery wrote.

Students will join the virtual keynote event at 10:30 a.m .

Stansbery is the chief scientist at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston and deputy director of exploration integration and science. She has a doctorate in space physics from Rice University.

Stansbery was interested in space from a young age, beginning after she watched the first American spacewalk by Ed White on Gemini 4.

“I didn’t believe I could participate in the space program, but as I entered college I had some wonderful opportunities to work in and around the space center,” Stansbery wrote.

She was encouraged to go to graduate school for space physics and ultimately got a job as a contractor for NASA.

“NASA is an incredible place to work,” she wrote. “Although it is a government agency, it is fun and intellectually challenging. I am able to work with brilliant people on interesting projects. The spirit of creativity and innovation is very strong.”

Dr. Ngozi Akinro, University College Day chair, said that a speaker from NASA was suggested for last year’s UCD event. However, there was not enough time to plan accordingly.

“This year Dr. Ricardo Rodriguez (Dean of School of natural and social sciences), contacted me about a speaker from NASA who he already requested,” Akinro said.

The theme for UCD is “Breaking Barriers.”

“Basically what we are doing is using that theme to reach out to everyone, to engage in every way possible with the UCD event,” Akinro said.

Speaking about the speaker, Akinro said that, “She is not just a scientist but she is also a woman.”

“What she brings to the table is that uniqueness of being a leader, a researcher, and a scientist that has gone that far to bring the idea that women can be scientists, women can be leaders, women can go as far as they want,” she said. “You have to reach out, you have to plunge for it, you have to break the barriers irrespective of your limitations and find every reasonable way possible to get to where you want.”

Akinro said the goal of UCD is to get everyone involved and to see that the work students do is  important.

“The goal is for you all to see relevance in your work and break whatever barrier or confidence issue or fear of speaking or whatever the barrier is for students and the entire Wesleyan community,” she told one of her classes.

UCD committee member Lexi Barlow believes that going virtual will show the university that it can prepare for potential issues in the future.

“Obviously, no one was expecting COVID-19, so I think this will positively impact students and faculty by demonstrating that there are other alternatives in tough situations,” Barlow said. “I believe this will also help students appreciate the face-to-face interaction we normally have at UCD each year and possibly boost attendance for next year’s UCD.”

Barlow thinks there will be a drop in attendance due to students being uninformed.

“I think the UCD committee has done an excellent job at reaching out to the entire student body to provide updates, but I do know a lot of students who don’t check their emails,” she said. “The best thing we can do is heavily promote this on all social media platforms, as well as encourage professors to remind students during virtual class.”



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