Dreaming of Mars Since Age 13, Astronaut Abby Inspires Women in STEM

Space.com | 11/8/2018 | Staff
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By aiming for Mars, 21-year-old Abigail Harrison hopes to inspire young women on Earth to pursue their own dreams.

Harrison, also known as Astronaut Abby, serves as an advocate for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and has been publicly aspiring to be the first person to visit Mars since she was 13 years old. Ahead of National STEM Day (Nov. 8), she talked with Space.com about college life, role models and, as she put it, dipping one's feet into the solar system.

Age - Harrison - Dreams - Astronaut - Mars

In 2011, at the age of 13, Harrison began speaking publicly about her dreams of becoming the first astronaut on Mars. At the age of 18, she founded a nonprofit called The Mars Generation, which builds excitement around STEM careers and supports space exploration.

She is currently studying astrobiology and Russian as an undergraduate. This past summer she worked in the Schuerger Lab at the Space Life Sciences Lab at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. She studied bacteria that could live under extreme conditions to understand how scientists might avoid contaminating Mars, as well as how they might effectively search for life beyond Earth.

Choices

Certainly impressive. But what choices made this possible?

For one, she transferred to find a better educational fit. After spending two years at the University of Minnesota, she left the big school. Harrison said she wanted to shift to a smaller institution to get more one-on-one experience in the classroom. Harrison said she would "hands down" choose to repeat that decision.

College - Experience - Passion - STEAM - Harrison

Her college experience also fortified her passion for STEAM, Harrison said — not just STEM. The "A" stands for "arts."

"Teaching liberal arts in conjunction with STEM is important … it helps us to be able to connect what we're doing," so that lessons set students up for the full scope of a STEM career,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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