Think laptops are cool? Thank Donya Douglas, an instrument systems engineer at NASA conducting temperature control research to avoid loss of performance in spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope, and personal computers. If you work in an office building, you also benefit from the NASA technologist’s know-how — she helped create the technologies keeping your office cool in summer and warm in winter.
In her high-school yearbook, Douglas wrote that she would work for NASA. Today, the thermal engineer has 17 years of space flight work and more than 20 esteemed publications under her belt, often presenting at national workshops. Herself a single mother of three boys, Douglas is sensitive to the challenges women face when balancing high-powered careers and family life.
Donya Douglas is making history … as an advocate, as well as an engineer. Douglas chairs Goddard Space Flight Center’s Women’s Advisory Committee, which promotes and recognizes the strength of women in the NASA workforce, and analyzes how NASA can better organize to empower its female workers. Douglas also makes a point of speaking with students, aiming to inspire young women to pursue science careers.
What’s next for Donya?
Douglas will continue to work at Goddard and hopes to see continued support for novel space and Earth science missions, particularly in the fields of robotics. These missions push human exploration beyond Earth, and afford us with a greater understanding of our changing planet.
What inspires Donya?
“As a child I was inspired by my father’s thirst for knowledge, love of the sciences, and belief that his children could accomplish anything. Throughout my childhood, I was inspired by teachers that saw my passion for math and science and fed it by providing opportunities for me to participate in extracurricular activities involving science demos, field trips, math competitions, and the like,” Douglas told theGrio.
“I now find inspiration from my youngest son Christopher. In 1993, when Christopher was born with Down syndrome, many doctors and specialists told me all the things that he wouldn’t be able to do. However, like my father, I teach my children that their abilities are limitless. Christopher has far surpassed everyone’s expectations by attending regular education classes and playing piano by ear. Watching him grow up has affirmed my belief that nothing is impossible.”
On black history …
“I celebrate black history by not allowing the efforts of those such as Frederick Douglass, Charles Drew, Benjamin Banneker, and Madame C.J.Walker to be in vain,” Douglas told theGrio. “I celebrate by striving for excellence in everything I do, valuing the accomplishments and sacrifices of those that came before me, acknowledging the achievements of those around me, and encouraging the dreams of the next generation.”
A little-known fact …
NASA has a long history reaching to the African-American community through its partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well as summer programs and mentoring geared towards minority students.
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