Two STEM Stars who should be Role Models

Red Tails Spitfire and Boeing Starliner-1 mission
Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

Aviation faces a STEM shortage

Role Models One way to attract talent

Asa Newman and Dr. Jeanette Epps, astronaut

US and global aviation, as well as technically based business, suffer from a shortage of qualified candidates in the STEM  (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. Young students are deterred from enrolling in the predicate courses in elementary schools, high schools, and colleges BECAUSE they are intimated by the difficulty associated with them.

One powerful way to influence these decisions is by way of role models.  Seeing people whom they admire SUCCEED opens these students to considering an academic path which looks less intimidating.

Below are two stories about folks, who have achieved much in the demanding aviation profession and whose examples may entice candidates.

  • Newman at 102 is a war hero and his ability to overcome severe discrimination in his effort to fight for his country in World War II.
  • Epps used her degrees ( BA physics, MAE and PhD [aerospace engineering] to be selected as the First Black woman to join the International Space Station crew- an incredibly competitive job competition.

The trails of both of these individuals, and many of their peers, should inspire a generation of STEM Stars!!!

One of last living Tuskegee Airmen celebrates 102nd birthday

Newman Salute

by: Jen Steer and Maia Belay and Nexstar Media Wire

Posted: Sep 25, 2020 / 03:08 PM CDT / Updated: Sep 25, 2020 / 03:08 PM CDT

AURORA, Ohio (WJW)– Asa Newman, one of the last living Tuskegee Airmen, turned 102 on Thursday.

The celebration featured a parade, an honor guard and several proclamations. As police cars passed, Newman saluted each one.

102nd Birthday Parade Aurora, OH


Newman, born Sept. 24, 1918 in Cleveland, had seven siblings and is the last remaining member of his family. He graduated from East High School and the University of Chicago before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1941. During his service, he flew to Casablanca, Morocco and Sicily, Italy.

After the war, he married Virginia and the couple had one child. He worked for the IRS and the University of Chicago, where he operated an atom smasher.

Earlier this month, Home Instead Senior Care solicited cards for his birthday, receiving more than 3,800 from all 50 states and the United Kingdom.

The Tuskegee Airmen, named for the Alabama city where they trained, were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps. They flew more than 15,000 attacks in Europe and North Africa during World War II.


Tuskegee Airmen

TUSKEGEE AIRMEN — 1941 – 1945

Black Wings NASM banner
The Tuskegee Airman Story


Redtails information






UMD alumna set to be the first Black woman to join crew at international space station


Epps in Flight Suit


Jeannette Epps on Oct. 17, 2017. (Robert Markowitz/NASA)

By Natalie Drum
For The Diamondback

Jeanette Epps, a University of Maryland alumna, is set to be the first Black woman to join the International Space Station crew. Epps will embark on a six-month mission that is expected to launch in 2021, alongside two other NASA astronauts, according to a NASA press release.

“Jeanette Epps is the natural addition to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission,” the press release read. “She fully complements the other members of the first Boeing full duration crewed mission.”

CST Starliner







Epps received her master’s degree in science in 1994 and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000 from this university, according to the press release.

Over the past few years, Epps has returned to the university to speak to students about her time on the campus, encouraging others to pursue aerospace engineering.

Prof .inderjit chopra


During Epps’ time as a student, Inderjit Chopra, director of the Gessow Rotorcraft Center — an aerospace research center at this university — and a university professor in aerospace engineering, was Epps’ advisor.

“Her strength was that she was a very diligent person,” Chopra said. “What she didn’t know, she basically compensated by working very hard.”

One of Chopra’s memories of Epps as a student, he said, happened one night when he went to pick up documents from his office at about 2:00 a.m. He had just come back from a trip overseas, Chopra said, and was surprised when he heard a sound coming from the lab.

It was Epps, along with her sister, who was pursuing a doctorate in chemistry at the time, working late into the night.

“Not many graduate students will be on campus at that time,” Chopra said. “She really impressed me enormously.”

When Epps applied for the NASA astronaut course, Chopra wrote about what he had seen from Epps that night in his recommendation letter. But it was Epps’ persistence and motivation that got her to where she is now, Chopra said.

Rosemary Parker, the director of the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering at this university, said she knew Epps as a graduate student and has watched her career flourish over time.

“I am just in awe of this person.” Parker said. “I can’t believe this person — this graduate student — is now this astronaut.”

Parker’s job at this university’s engineering school is to increase and retain the number of underrepresented minority students in the program.

In fall 2019, there were 618 undergraduate students enrolled in this university’s aerospace engineering department but only 25 who identified as Black or African American, according to a report from this university.

Matt Stone, who recently graduated from this university with a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, recalls there being very few women of color — if any — in his classes.

“If I was to average it, I would say it was probably one-third female at tops … and that’s just for male versus female,” Stone said. “In terms of African American females, you know, I really just don’t even remember there being that many in any of my classes.”

Mary Bowden, the acting director of Women in Engineering and an aerospace engineering professor at this university, said she thinks that Epps’ influence is important for young girls to see, especially young Black women.

“As soon as you start seeing people who look like you in this job, it’s so inspirational,” Bowden said, adding that it’s important for young women — especially Black women — to see that if Jeanette can do it, they can be an astronaut, too.

Dr Epps

Some more about Dr. Epps:

NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps Joins First Operational Boeing Crew Mission to Space Station


NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps

Credits: NASA

NASA has assigned astronaut Jeanette Epps to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

Epps will join NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a six-month expedition planned for a launch in 2021 to the orbiting space laboratory. The flight will follow NASA certification after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and Crew Flight Test with astronauts.Epps, Williams and Cassada




The spaceflight will be the first for Epps, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 from LeMoyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, New York. She completed a master’s degree in science in 1994 and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Clark School of Applied Engineering University of Maryland

While earning her doctorate, Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow, authoring several journal and conference articles on her research. After completing graduate school, she worked in a research laboratory for more than two years, co-authoring several patents, before the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited her. She spent seven years as a CIA technical intelligence officer before her selection as a member of the 2009 astronaut class.

NASA assigned Williams and Cassada to the Starliner-1 mission in August 2018. The spaceflight will be the first for Cassada and third for Williams, who spent long-duration stays aboard the space station on Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33.

Two STEM Super Heroes



Stem Outreach








Nichols-Epps-NicholsActress Nichelle Nichols, who was born in Robbins, Illinois on December 29, 1936, is shown. She played Lieutenant Uhura the Communications Officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise in the original series, Star Trek. 

From the late 1970’s until the late 1980’s, NASA employed Nichelle Nichols to recruit new astronaut candidates. Many of her new recruits were women or members of racial and ethnic minorities, including Guion Bluford (the first African-American astronaut), Sally Ride (the first female American astronaut), Judith Resnik (one of the original set of female astronauts, who perished during the launch of the Challenger on January 28, 1986), and Ronald McNair (the second African-American astronaut, and another victim of the Challenger accident).


two heroes








Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

Be the first to comment on "Two STEM Stars who should be Role Models"

Leave a comment