History-making NASA astronaut retires

A history-making astronaut has officially retired, leaving in her wake a stream of firsts and records set.

According to the Associated Press, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has retired almost a year after her last and longest space flight. In her storied career, not only was Whitson the first woman to command the International Space Station, AP reports that she has “spent more time off the planet than any other American: 665 days over three space station missions,” not to mention that she’s “also the world’s most experienced female spacewalker, with 10 under her spacesuit belt.”

Joining NASA in 1986 as a researcher, AP says Whitson’s career highlights also include  serving as the only female chief of NASA’s “male-dominated astronaut corps,” as well as being the oldest woman to ever fly in space.

Director of flight operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston Brian Kelly explained Whitson’s impact in this way:

“She set the highest standards for human spaceflight operations, as well as being an outstanding role model for women and men in America and across the globe.”

As for Whitson, she took to Twitter to express how significant her time as a NASA astronaut has been, calling it “the greatest honor to live out my lifelong dream.”

NASA opens research center in honor of ‘Hidden Figures’ inspiration

A hero finally had her place in history cemented — literally.

According to Refinery29, NASA honored Katherine Johnson, a “mathematician whose contributions to NASA’s early space missions were instrumental to its success” and the inspiration behind 2016’s Hidden Figures film, by placing her name on their research center. Called the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, Entertainment Weekly says the new building is part of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and was officially opened in a ceremony this past weekend.

In a pre-taped video, Refinery29 says Johnson shared how she felt about having a building named in her honor.

“You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy,”  she said. “I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn’t do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeeded there.”

Known as “the human computer” and a mathematician vital to launching John Glenn into space in 1962, Entertainment Weekly reports that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe offered that while Johnson is not alone in her achievements, she is certainly a pioneer.

“You have been a trailblazer,” he said at the ceremony. “When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.”

Johnson’s work and those of her counterparts Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were further immortalized in the film Hidden Figuresin which Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe portrayed the all-black, all-female mathematicians who shaped the trajectory of NASA’s space program.



Young neurosurgeon makes history

People often make history for being the best in their field, so to make history before truly working in said field is something pretty special. Just ask Nancy Abu-Bonsrah.

According to the Huffington Post, Abu-Bonsrah is “set to become the first black woman to be trained as a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins medical school.”

With “Match Day” on March 17, Abu-Bonsrah didn’t need the luck of St. Patrick’s Day on her side to be accepted into the residency program — her talent and intelligence obviously spoke for themselves, as CNN reports that the nationally-ranked program only accepts between two and five residents each year.

Beginning her residency in 2018, HuffPost says the Ghana-born neurosurgery student said she hopes to use her skills to create healthcare solutions around the world.

“I hope to be able to go back to Ghana over the course of my career to help in building sustainable surgical infrastructure,” she said. “I will be matching into neurosurgery, a field that I am greatly enamored with, and hope to utilize those skills in advancing global surgical care.”

Zendaya partners with ‘#WeNeedMore’ campaign

A career in engineering or technology is just as exciting as a career in Hollywood — that’s the message behind Zendaya’s new partnership with Verizon.

According to InStyle, the 20-year-old multi-hyphenate has teamed up with Verizon’s ‘#WeNeedMore’ campaign, which “encourages students to explore the many career possibilities that exist within STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.”

To help show students the kinds of careers possible, Zendaya brought a group of 13 and 14-year-olds to Capitol Studios to show how she records music, says InStyle, giving each of them a chance to sing with her and learn from audio engineer Joshua Florez how to edit and mix sound.

Inspired to participate in the project by her parents (who are teachers), Zendaya told InStyle that watching her mother push for educational technology in the classroom made her recognize the importance of those tools.

“I got to witness firsthand how much that can affect a young person, how much that can open their eyes to certain things that they may not even know exist at the time,” she explained.

And this program is no different, she told InStyle:

“It’s just kind of opening their eyes to other jobs, and other things that they can be involved in that maybe otherwise they wouldn’t even know exist, which I think is really cool…I’ve always been lucky that I’ve been able to have two parents that exposed me to that. But not every kid has that. Not every kid even has a teacher that’s going to go above and beyond to expose that to them. So that’s why programs like this are really important.”

New GE ad makes celebrities out of scientists

A new advertisement by General Electric is making female scientists the A-list celebrities of today.

According to the Huffington Post, the ad “imagines the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in Engineering, Millie Dresselhaus a.k.a. the ‘queen of carbon science,’ as a star,” swapping the face of movie stars with hers on the covers of magazines and even having an emoji crafted in her likeness.

From Millie dolls to halloween costumes, international news coverage to newborns named in her honor, the ad imagines a world where female scientists are as revered and glorified as much as Hollywood elite. But the ad does more than just position a female scientist in the spotlight — it announces GE’s own intentions of creating the future of females in science.

Part of GE’s new commitment to hiring more women in technical positions, HuffPost says the ad formally announced the company’s goal of “helping 20,000 women fill more STEM roles in GE by the year 2020 and obtaining 50:50 representation for all of their tech entry-level leadership development programs.”

By implementing new recruitment practices and creating feedback and training processes to retain employees, HuffPost says GE is taking a “holistic” approach to achieving their goal, which is to — as their video’s Youtube description says — not just imagine “world where brilliant women are the stars,” but to instead help create it.


Science research to improve rape investigation methods

One scientist is using grant funding to pursue research in rape investigation methods, all with the goal of improving current procedures.

According to Mic, Dr. Candice Bridge of the University of Central Florida received a grant from the National Institute of Justice received a $324,000 grant “to pursue alternatives to DNA testing using resources to which only the FBI and a handful of forensic labs have access.”

Allowing researchers to investigate and identify rape perpetrators when traditional DNA forms are not present, Bridge said in a press release that her research will be “an important line of research that has become even more important as rapists attempt to elude capture by covering their DNA tracks after an assault,” Mic reports.

Bridge will work alongside an 11-person team in order to examine the lubricants exchanged during an assault, says Mic, with additional research into how such fluids are broken down by the body funded by an additional grant from the University of Central Florida. Additionally, Mic reports that Bridge is “also working with the Orlando Public Defender’s Office to create an educational website for attorneys, helping them to understand what forensics can realistically do.”

Way to go, Dr. Bridge!