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Mon Apr 26, 2021, 04:05 PM

On the Path Towards Inclusivity with Lisette Melendez

Growing up, I was always quiet and shy, but never unsure about one thing: I loved space and I loved rocks. In elementary school, I announced that I wanted to lead the geology lab we had just split into groups for. Instead, my teacher told me I should be satisfied with secretary, before directing the boys to take the lead.

So began my journey navigating STEM as a queer, disabled Latina.

I went through most of my classes in middle and high school without seeing a single woman scientist portrayed in our textbooks. It wasnt until my freshman year of university that I met Sarah Sheffield, the first woman geologist I had ever encountered. Future generations should not have to wait so long to see themselves represented in STEM diversity and representation matter. We owe it to ourselves and those in our footsteps to break down these barriers, and make STEM a welcoming field for all.

When I started this internship at NASA Headquarters in October 2020, I was already excited for the opportunity to work at my dream organization, one whose amazing work had inspired me every day. But this was also where my twin passions for science and equity met in full force, the moment Id been unknowingly preparing for since playing secretary in elementary school. I was finally able to apply the concepts Ive been studying as a simultaneous student of STEM, feminism, and antiracism to further NASAs progress towards being a fully welcoming place for everyone who wants to work here.

Right away, I met two other powerful women, who would also influence my career: McRae Lenahan and Shobhana Gupta. McRae works in communications with NASA Earth Applied Sciences, and Shobhana manages NASAs Open Innovation and Community Applications program.

Under their amazing mentorship, Im working on projects with two main focuses: increasing the diversity of our outreach opportunities, and fostering an inclusive environment for current and future employees of all identities.


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