2 April 2018
By Courtney Batterson
When I tell someone that I’m part of a research team at NASA, I’m immediately met with stunned silence that is followed up with a confusing look. I wait, anticipating the inevitable question that arises as they look me up and down and say, “Wait, how old are you?” I sigh (inwardly) because, on the one hand, I can’t blame them. I admit I look about eighteen years old and honestly, I’m not much older than that. On the other hand, though, I am eager for the day to come when young, female scientists are accepted as they are without question.
Until that day comes, I’ll be out here breaking barriers and shocking the world with my abilities because that’s what I love to do.
I’m a 23-year old scientist working at NASA’s Ames Research Center on the Mars Global Climate Modeling team that is now almost a dozen-members strong and full of bright, diverse, and young minds. We are five civil servants, three contractors (including myself), and soon-to-be three post-docs large. I started as an intern in college and have continued as a full-time researcher since June 2017. I have dedicated much of my free time to judging primary school science fairs, speaking at public events, and volunteering in classrooms as a kind of inspirational mentor to young scientists. I’ve written for various blogs, created my own website, and advertised myself on social media. But, why do I do all this?
I do it because by the time I finished my internship I realized how many bright students NASA is missing out on because their internships are hard to find. I realized how many students just don’t think they’re good enough for NASA and therefore don’t even apply. Most importantly, I witnessed the same message over and over at NASA: that NASA’s civil servants want you. They want to mentor you, to guide you, to teach you, to hear your questions, to pass on their knowledge, and to contribute to the education of the next generation of scientists.
It’s just that nobody seems to know that.
I want to make sure every young scientist out there feels that their dreams are attainable. I want them to know about all the resources available to them, especially NASA-specific resources like NASA OSSI. I want them to know what to expect at an internship, what to study for this or that career path, and what kinds of questions to ask to be successful. I write, speak, and put my content on the web so that my generation, and those that follow, know how to achieve their dreams.
Future scientists, you can do this. In fact, you already are.