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Sepideh Nia/MEDILL REPORTS

Left to Right:

Bridget Acre, 15, and Tonette Arriaga, 15, from Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy build paper rockets at the Adler Planetarium.


Rocket scientist Amber Gell inspires girls to stick with science

by Sepideh Nia
May 02, 2013


Amber Gell

Sepideh Nia/MEDILL REPORTS

Rocket scientist Amber Gell received the 2013 Women in Space Science Award at the Adler Planetarium. She spoke to 250 girls from 11 Chicago area schools about science careers and living on spaceship Earth.

Adler auditorium

Sepideh Nia/MEDILL REPORTS

Left to Right:

Kezia Branch, 14, and Tonette Arriaga, 15, from Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy attend a presentation by Amber Gell.

Rocket scientist Amber Gell received the 2013 annual Women in Space Science award at the Adler Planetarium Thursday.

Gell interacted with over 250 elementary and high school girls from 11 different Chciago area schools.

“How did you becoming involved in NASA?” one girl asked.  And everyone wanted to know what zero gravity is like.

Gell compared zero gravity to floating on the bottom of a swimming pool, and to Buzz Lightyear

“What does Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story do? Does he fly? No.  Does he float? No. What does he do? He falls in style,” she said. 

“You can do anything you can dream with science,” Gell said. “The world is limitless. There’s nothing that is really impossible. If something is impossible it just means that someone isn’t creative enough to come up with a solution. Everything we know in our reality is a byproduct of science.”

Gell, a Milwaukee native, received multiple degrees in aerospace engineering and aerospace studies, as well as minors in human factors engineering, psychology and advanced mathematics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

 

She received a graduate certificate in space systems engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology as well as a graduate degree in science in physiology and human performance from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. 

“It is an amazing honor to have looked at the past list of awardees and to be put among the ranks of them is astounding,” said Gell of the award given to her by the Woman’s Board at the Adler. “There’s current and former female astronauts, astrophysicists, amazing women who have accomplished so much already that I’m still on my way to becoming one of them.”

“It was a great surprise and a great honor and I love the part right now with getting to work with the kids, talk to them,” she said.

Gell, who works for Lockheed Martin as a spacecraft systems engineer for Orion’s Landing and Recovery Systems team, spoke to the crowed of girls about the Orion Project that she is working on with NASA.  

“I think events like this really encourages our students to keep going and pushing further because when it comes to math and science, you really do need those grades,” said Dionne Gomez, advisor and operations manager at Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy. “You do need that extra support.  I think events like this promote that.”

Gomez came to the event with academy students Kezia Branch, 14, and Tonette Arriaga, 15. Both girls said they enjoy math and think women need a stronger presence in science and math careers.

“It’s really important, whether it be physics or biology or anything,” said Gomez. “These are our future role models and me being a woman myself, we need to act as role models and such and promote events like this because there’s obviously more men in fields like this and it’s important for women to be growing in this field.”

Michelle Larson, president of the Adler, said it’s very important to have a diversity of role models for the younger generation.

“That’s why I think events like this bring before them people like Amber Gell who’s a spacecraft engineer and they may not have encountered such a person yet in their life,” said Larson.

Larson acknowledged that there is a gender gap between men and women in the science and math field.  

“This event in particular has a long history with out Women’s Board knowing about that gender gap as we all do and wanting to have a specific opportunity to address women in a large mass,” said Larson, who mentioned that the Adler more commonly hosts gender-neutral events.

This is the 11th year the Adler has held this event.