High school senior Marilla Dial earned the opportunity to explore career possibilities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center during the weeklong NASA High School Aerospace Scholars Program this past summer.
To be accepted into the program, Marilla wrote an essay and completed a four-month online course beforehand. She also needed a recommendation from State Representative John Cyrier, which he was happy to give.
Marilla presented her experience to school board trustees in September, calling it a challenge, but “incredibly rewarding.”
Principal Kenneth Parker joked, “This IS rocket science.”
Rep. Cyrier also recognized her accomplishment with a flag flown over the State Capital in Austin.
During the week at the Johnson Space Center, Marilla participated in team projects and briefings directed by NASA engineers and scientists, watched astronauts train, toured the facilities, and participated in a hands-on design and engineering challenge to plan a mission to Mars.
Marilla joined the program as part of her personal life goals to continually try new things to find out what she likes and what she doesn’t.
“I’m trying to narrow it down – what I want to do,” said Marilla. “That’s the way my parents raised me. They made me very confident in myself, to pursue what I want.”
Marilla is planning on going into a STEM career. Because she is a woman, bilingual and has dual citizenship because she was born in Mexico, she’ll be able to choose her job.
“I know they are looking for that in the field, so strategically, it’s a good way to go,” said Marilla.
“I’ll also be setting a good example,” she said. “Let that be me, and hopefully I can bring a whole new wave of girls with me.”
Though women comprise about half of the workforce in United States, only about a quarter of women are in STEM careers, according to the Census Bureau. STEM employers are actively recruiting women to narrow that gap.
“They want us there working alongside the guys,” said Marilla. “We have a different perspective they want, so don’t be intimidated.”