Katelyn Shelton
Category: 2020 College Winner

Katelyn Shelton

Cedar Valley College

In a world full of many influential people of color, the one person who has stood out to me has always been Mae Jemison. Even now, I still look back on the main reason I want to become an astronaut, and it is all because of her. I have always viewed her as a role model and a source of motivation to pursue a career in science, particularly astrophysics and planetary science. Originally, I had no idea who Mae Jemison was, nor did I know she even existed beforehand. However, it was all because of my mother who researched female engineers for career day in elementary school and Mae Jemison was someone that piqued my interest due to her being an astronaut. Once I went to the natural science museum and found an astronaut suit; I knew I was ready to present for career day at school. Through her contributions of being an astronaut of color, who is also a female, and worked in a male-influenced environment at NASA; she influenced me to continue to break those barriers in the future.

Mae Jemison has inspired me to study and pursue my dreams of becoming an astronaut through her accomplishments. Before her transition into conducting experiments aboard the International Space Station, she was a licensed medical doctor. She took part in several volunteer opportunities with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia while researching efforts to push forward with a Hepatitis B vaccine. By her pursuing a field of medicine before becoming an astronaut implies that I, myself, can pursue another field that I enjoy; which happens to be learning the Korean language. In addition to her medical education at both Stanford and Cornell University, Mae Jemison can speak the Russian and Japanese language, which is essential to becoming an astronaut. She was also skilled in the areas of engineering and the natural sciences.

Through her experience, Mae Jemison was able to apply and submit an application to NASA’s astronaut program for selection and was granted the position which would elevate diversity among its growing workforce. While aboard the International Space Station along with other astronauts of various diverse backgrounds, she was able to conduct her research as the main science mission specialist. She conducted two bone cell research experiments while aboard the space shuttle Endeavor before her departure from NASA in 1993. Her contributions within the walls of NASA and through private endeavors have influenced research within the science community and help promote the future involvement of female scientists. I hope to one day meet her and thank her for being the one person to inspire me to pursue a career in science. Her achievements have shown me I can accomplish anything I set my mind towards. She was a profound figure in launching the start of new opportunities for the next generation of colored women who aspire to be scientists.