The Space Science Data Operations Office (SSDOO) education and outreach activities have emphasized the opportunities for women in science over the last month. First, there was "Take Our Daughters to Work" Day (see related article in this issue). Then the education and outreach group was requested by the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Education Office to allow two high school girls to "shadow" women scientists to get an understanding of their day-to-day activities. Four of the SSDOO staff volunteered to be involved and to share their experiences in this article. They each spent an hour to an hour and a half with Paige Fleming and Rachel Courtland, visitors from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
Jennifer Ash-Poole of the Coordinated Request and User Support Office (CRUSO) started off the visit with a demonstration of CD-ROMs and the Web server. She described how to create an HTML page and her current project of setting up a secure CD-ROM server and the problems she has encountered in doing that. Paige and Rachel had done some surfing of the Web before but had never taken a look at the insides of a page. Jennifer also discussed all the different types of systems on which she has to work and help explain to requesters. Then she took Paige and Rachel over to the Photo Archive, where she showed them all the different formats and ways the NSSDC stores film. The girls were especially impressed with the 20 x 24-inch Lunar Orbiter images. Robert Tice demonstrated how the digital camera worked, but, of course, the computer was not cooperating, so it was back to the CRUSO office to browse the CD-ROMs.
Jennifer brought Paige and Rachel to Dr. Ramona Kessel of the Space Physics Data Facility for the first changing of the guard or mentor. Both girls were currently taking physics classes, so Ramona tried to give them a sense of what will happen if they choose to pursue a career in physics, that is, the scope of possibilities and the chance of doing some research. Ramona was preparing a presentation and so initiated them into some aspects of PowerPoint and how to search for information on the World Wide Web. Rachel and Paige then spent some time exploring the Web in the midst of which Ramona's mouse stopped working, so they got to meet some of the rest of the staff as Ramona sought help in "fixing" the mouse. The girls were thus exposed to ideas, tools, and everyday problems and solutions - a typical day.
Carolyn Ng of Special Projects enjoyed an early lunch with Paige and Rachel outside the Building 21 cafeteria and had a casual chat on their background and academic interests. Before returning to Building 26 Carolyn showed the NSSDC User Survey to the visitors, who had conducted an E-mail survey of students in a math class. The young ladies then joined other SSDOO staff members in listening to Dr. Joseph King speak on the results of the survey. As they moved on to meet Nancy Grace Roman of the Astronomical Data Center (ADC) Carolyn made sure they "both have an excess of posters"! (quoted from a thank-you letter).
Carolyn brought Paige and Rachel to Dr. Roman's office for the last of their shadowing. Nancy told them a little about the ADC and its purpose as well as how it differs from most of the NSSDC. She briefly showed them the home page and also a couple of astronomical catalogs. She explained her current work on the information in the General Catalog of Variable Stars. They then walked to the library. On the way Nancy gave them a brief summary of her career. One of them remarked that she had considered astronomy as a career but was afraid it was too restrictive. When she heard about Dr. Roman's many experiences at NASA Headquarters, GSFC, and elsewhere, she realized that there are no restrictions. In the library the girls helped Nancy search a number of volumes of the Astrophysical Journal for tables that would be worthwhile additions to the ADC. They then helped her make Xerox copies of the first pages of the articles so that the tables could be requested. The girls seemed to enjoy the experience of actually doing work that would benefit the astronomy community.
SSDOO's four women scientist volunteers and the two high school girls who shadowed them, from left to right: Carolyn Ng, Nancy Roman, Rachel Courtland, Paige Fleming, Jennifer Ash-Poole, and Ramona Kessel.
Erin D. Gardner, email@example.com, (301) 286-0163
Hughes STX, Code 633, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771, U.S.A.