Let's See What Girls Really Think!

During our Women’s History Month event recently, I had the opportunity to meet and present with Dr. Kamla Modi of the Girl Scout Research Institute. As I spoke with and listened to Dr. Modi, I was amazed at her poise and ability to capture an audience.  Her leadership skills were palpable, and I knew we would form a robust partnership towards the same goal-encouraging young girls to enter science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. 

So, I thought this would be a great way to showcase the lastest research from the Girl Scouts.  Here are some of their findings and a link to the report.  I hope you all read it because as I said at the conference, I fully believe to tackle the nation’s problems and push the boundaries of science and technology, we should tap into the market of young brains deeper than we do today and include the many young girls out there who may otherwise not pursue STEM careers.  And we believe Women@NASA’s first outreach program called NASA G.I.R.L.S. targets these findings so very well!  Dr. Modi is an example of what young girls can do when they put their minds to it-remember, anything is possible.  Never let anyone tell you otherwise!

Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math:

-A majority of today’s girls have a clear interest in STEM

-They don’t prioritize STEM fields when thinking about their future careers

-74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM subjects

-82 percent see themselves as “smart enough to have a career in STEM.”

-Yet, few girls consider it their number-one career option with only 13 percent saying it’s their first choice

Read the full report here.

The Girl Scouts of the USA have incorporated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as part of its hands-on, informal learning activities, but the findings in this recent report reinforce the importance of the Girl Scouts’ STEM initiatives. In October 2011, the Girl Scouts formed a new partnership with AT&T to advance underserved high-school girls in science and engineering through a $1 million AT&T Aspire contribution. The initiative, IMAGINE: Your STEM Future, aims to reach 6,000 young women this year and introduce them to the vast array of career options in STEM fields. The IMAGINE curriculum is designed to help high school girls imagine a future in a STEM career by experiencing science through interactive activities and visual experiments led by AT&T employees.

Generation STEM notes that the creative and hands-on aspects of STEM hold the most appeal. STEM-interested girls take an active, inquisitive approach to engaging in science, technology, engineering, and math: a high percentage like to solve problems (85%), build things and put things together (67%), do hands-on science projects (83%), and ask questions about how things work and find ways to answer these questions (80%).

“While we know that the majority of girls prefer a hands-on approach in STEM fields, we also know that girls are motivated to make the world a better place and to help people,” says Kamla Modi, PhD, research and outreach analyst, Girl Scout Research Institute. “Girls may not understand how STEM careers help people, or how their STEM interests can further their goals of helping people. Girl Scouts of the USA is committed to engaging girls in STEM activities and encouraging them to pursue STEM interests both in and outside the classroom, [in part] through program partnerships.”

Addressing another critical Generation STEM finding—just 46 percent of girls know a woman in a STEM career—Girl Scouts and the New York Academy of Sciences have partnered together to design and implement a STEM mentoring program for Girl Scouts, modeled after the academy’s current afterschool STEM mentoring program. The new curriculum will be adapted and scaled across more than 100 Girl Scout councils throughout the country. The program trains young women scientists to serve as role models and to bring high-quality, hands-on, informal science education opportunities to middle-school-age Girl Scouts.

To learn more about the current STEM initiatives underway in the Girl Scouts, visit here. To learn more about the findings of the Girl Scout Research Institute, read the full Generation STEM report. 

NASA DEVELOP: This Young Woman's Story

When I first spoke to Tharini Jeyaprakash, I could sense drive. Motivation. Perseverance.  We chatted a few times about the NASA DEVELOP program, which was new to me.  I did some research and before long, I knew we had to discuss it here at our blog.  True to my initial thoughts about Tharini, I needn’t worry.  She approached me with a post she thought worthy of Women@NASA’s blog.  And I definitely agreed. So here’s her story.  It’s one of science.  Learning. Leadership. And, most of all, growth.

Tharini Jeyaprakash is a recent graduate from the University of Cincinnati and is working as a researcher for NASA’s DEVELOP National Program. DEVELOP is a student-led, student-run research internship that utilizes NASA Earth Science measurements and predictions on projects that adress local, regional, national, and international concerns.  Project outcomes demonstrate the application and importance of NASA Earth observations in addressing environmental policy issues.  DEVELOP, under the Applied Sciences Program within the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, was recently acknowledged with NASA’s Group Achievement Award.

“During subsequent terms, I was given the responsibility of leading a project and eventually leading the program in Mobile, Alabama” Tharini said. “I provided direction and support for the program involving detailed planning. Project management and professional communication were a couple of the other responsibilities that I had. I also learned the art of making movies while directing a documentary video about the project.

“It was challenging, but the experience showed me what I am actually capable of and where my passion lies. It was my dream to be associated with NASA when I decided to study Geo Informatics in Engineering in India a few years ago,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see my dream come true and to be serving society at the same time.”

Tharini Jeyaprakash presenting the “Lake Victoria Water Resources” project at a close out session at the NASA John C. Stennis Space Center.

 According to Tharini, the program typically has a group of 3-8 students working on environmental research projects during each 10-week term.   

“We use NASA science measurements to address current issues and produce meaningful results to partners. The ‘Lake Victoria Water Resources’ is one such project that I worked on in which we partnered with NASA SERVIR and Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization to map invasive species in Lake Victoria, Africa, which is causing a lot of problems in three countries bordering the lake.  The methodology will be used to train the personnel to monitor and control these species. Through the NASA DEVELOP program, students get opportunities to develop their personal, research and leadership skills,” she said.

Tharini undertook several successful initiatives after taking leadership in Mobile that improved the quality of research by establishing partnerships with state agencies, universities, professionals, and NASA centers. She led the most recent project which developed an innovative methodology to use satellite data that will be adopted by Alabama Forestry Commission to predict pine beetle infestation that is costing the state millions of dollars in forestry damage. The project was well received by the partners and appreciated by the scientific community. She also initiated outreach activities to educate the communities about NASA DEVELOP. She directed a movie about the recent project as one of the initiatives that is featured on Earthzine, a contribution of the IEEE Committee on Earth Observation (ICEO) in support of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and its mission.

Jamie Favors, second from right, representing DEVELOP National Program Office, presents an achievement award signed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr., to Dr. Bernard Eichold, Health Officer, and mentor of the Mobile DEVELOP program. On hand for the presentation were, from left, Mobile DEVELOP participants Marine Karepetyan of the University of South Alabama, University of Cincinnati alum Tharini Jeyaprakash, and Michael Brown of the University of South Alabama.

 “My mantra for success from high school through graduate studies has been ‘Aim big. Work hard. Stay focused. Reach your goal’,’” says Tharini, who aspires to have a career in Earth Science research. “It has been an incredible opportunity for me as a young professional to be associated with NASA and to gain understanding of complex environmental issues that impact a large number of people.”

The movie that Tharini directed can be viewed at here.

Congratulations to Ms. Tharini Jeyaprakash and the entire NASA DEVELOP team.  Best of luck from Women@NASA and may you achieve your dreams and inspire others to follow you.

Women in History Shout Out

“To be good, and do good, is the whole duty of man comprised in a few words.” – Abigail Smith Adams

(1744-1818) As wife of the first Vice President and later First Lady when John Adams became the nation’s second president, Mrs. Adams became a good friend to Mrs. Martha Washington and a valued help in official entertaining, drawing on her experience of courts and society abroad. Their son, John Quincy Adams, would later become the nation’s sixth president.  When Former President Adams was elected, Mrs. Adams continued a formal pattern of entertaining, despite the primitive conditions in new capital in November 1800. The President’s House was nowhere near completion, for example. Mrs. Adams died in 1818 and left a legacy as a patriot and First Lady, wife of one President and mother of another.

Source: White House

Women in History Shout Out

“Failure is impossible.” – E. Lillian Todd

(1865-1937) Miss E. Lillian Todd was a stenographer who was fascinated with aviation having lived during the era when the human race was beginning to learn how to take flight.  While none of her self-designed planes are known to have flown, she did exhibit one aircraft at the meeting of the Aeronautical Club of America in December of 1906. The aircraft was technically a glider since it did not contain an engine.  Miss Todd had no training in the use of tools or mechanics, yet she built the plane by herself. Her designs eventually received attention from Andrew Carnegie and Harry Guggenheim. 

Women in History Shout Out

“By the time I was 12, I was challenging every boy in our neighborhood at running, jumping, and everything related.” -Wilma Rudolph

(1940-1994) Wilma Rudolph was an Olympic track athlete who became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field. Ms. Rudolph was born prematurely with problems with her left leg, and consequently, she wore a brace.  With determination and physical therapy, she overcame her physical disabilities and became an Olympic star. Ms. Rudolph grew up in the South during days of segregation and attended an African-American high school where she played on the basketball team. As a naturally gifted runner, she was later recruited for the track team. While still in high school, Ms. Rudolph qualified for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. She became the youngest member of the U.S. team at the age of 16 and proceeded to win the bronze medal in the sprint relay event. Ms. Rudolph succumbed to brain cancer in 1994 at the young age of 54.

Women's History Month Shout Out

“Eileen Collins is a living, breathing example of the best that our nation has to offer. She is, of course, a brave, superb pilot and a magnificent crew commander.” – Michael Griffin, Former NASA Administrator

(1956- ) Eileen Collins is a retired astronaut who was selected for the corps in 1990.  She is also a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel.  She was the first female Space Shuttle pilot, flying Discovery for STS-63 in 1995. Then in 1999, she was the first female Space Shuttle commander, taking charge of Columbia.  So fittingly, she was also commander for the return to flight after the Columbia tragedy.  During this mission, she was the first pilot to ever have to perform a complete 360 degree pitch maneuver of the Space Shuttle.  She retired in 2006 to pursue private interests.

Source: NASA

Women's History Month Shout Out

“Each goal attained was like a new badge. Guiding taught me to see goals and achieve them.” -Dr. Roberta Bondar


(1945- ) Dr. Roberta Bondar is a neurologist, distinguished professor, and former astronaut.  She became the first female Canadian astronaut to fly into space in 1992 as a payload specialist aboard Discovery.  She was selected in the first class of astronauts in Canada in 1983.

Sources: Dr. Roberta Bondar’s Official Site and JSC Astronaut Biographies


Women's History Month

Hello Women@NASA Blog Readers!

Tomorrow begins a month of celebrating those who came before us and paved the way so that we would have the rights to be who we are.  To celebrate who we were.  And who we will become. 

As such, for each day in March, we will post a Women in History Shout Out.  So if you have a woman you want honored, leave a comment here, on our Facebook wall, or Tweet @WomenNASA.  All you need to do is suggest the honoree’s name and one line about who she is.  We will do the in-depth research.  Don’t assume your favorite is so obvious that we would just know to pick her.  There are so many women to honor and only so many days. 

Additionally, Women@NASA is hosting Women, Innovation and Aerospace on March 8th to celebrate Women’s History Month.  If you are near a NASA center, please attend!  All events are free and open to the public but seating is limited so you must register. Learn more here

It’s been an exciting time for us here at Women@NASA.  We have a steadily growing followership on Twitter and Facebook, most of whom we are positive don’t already read the blog.  This means we are reaching out to more and more people and with social media, our hope is we are also reaching out to young people and inspiring them to impact the world through science and engineering.  For the future, you can expect a smartphone application and partnerships with women’s organizations.  We won’t leak too many details but we can assure you they will be fun, lively, new, and targeted just for our readers/followers/supporters. 

Thanks for reading/following!

Women in History Shout Out

We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.” – Louisa May Alcott

(1832-1888) – Seamstress, servant, teacher, Civil War nurse, and finally, author and novelist.  Her novel, Little Women, is considered a classic and is still read in classrooms.