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Purdue University Students Visit NASA Langley

Fourteen students from Purdue University visited NASA’s Langley Research Center March 15, a capstone event to the school’s yearlong Leading Women Toward Space Careers program.

Rather than providing direct job placement after graduation, Purdue seeks to help women students advance in their fields with knowledge that extends beyond technical skills. The program offers mentorship, work-force readiness, Purdue workshops, and a trip to a NASA Center. NASA’s Johnson Space Center hosted the 2022 class visit.

Purdue women students stand in the shadow of the entrance to NASA Langley's gigantic aircraft hangar.
Purdue University students toured the Flight Research Hangar as part of their visit to NASA’s Langley Research Center. Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

“Including a NASA site visit gives program participants the unique opportunity to get a ‘behind the scenes’ look at various types of jobs and research at NASA facilities,” said Purdue’s Dr. L. Allison Roberts, the program’s manager. “This experience aids students in understanding what their career might look like for the first few years after graduation.”

During their Langley visit, the students and their mentors met with Acting Associate Center Director Kanama Bivins, participated in a Lunch and Learn Langley Leadership Panel, and spoke with engineers and researchers while touring the Acoustics Research Lab, the Flight Research Hangar, the Landing and Impact Research Facility, the Mach 10 Wind Tunnel, and the Structures and Materials Laboratory.

Purdue students and mentors also visited the Landing and Impact Research Facility. Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

“Representation matters,” said Esther Lee, a flight mechanics engineer with the Vehicle Analysis Branch within the Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate. “Seeing women in their desired career fields who contribute to different areas of work will hopefully give these students some courage, confidence, and inspiration that they can achieve what they set their hearts and minds on.” Lee and Valerie Wiesner from Langley’s Research Directorate organized Purdue’s visit.

Nadia Numa is in the Astrodynamics and Space Applications concentration of the Aero/Astro Engineering Ph.D. program at Purdue, and, post-graduation, she plans to contribute to space exploration efforts. She was inspired by the women she met during her Langley visit.

“Everyone we interacted with recounted with pride how supportive leadership is across the board and the joys of being part of a collaborative culture that helps them grow technically and personally,” she said. “It showed us not only what was possible, but also that whatever we could dream of, we could partner with NASA to do it.”

The Leading Women Toward Space Careers program is in its second year and continues to grow. For the 2024-25 academic year, 25 students and 12 mentors are expected to participate.

Author: Sondra Woodward
Published: April 2024

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