Women in STEM: Hidden Figures, Modern Figures

February 2017

Briefing date: February 2, 2017 (3:30pm)


Jessica Kenney (STScI)


  • Kimberly Arcand (Chandra/SAO)

  • Dr. Jedidah Isler (Vanderbilt University)

  • Dr. Cady Coleman (Retired USAF Former Astronaut)

  • Dr. Julie McEnery (NASA GSFC)

 Slide presentation:

Transcript and audio recording:

Additional resources:

  • NASA Wavelength resources* (PDF file) 1.3 MB
    *Due to changes in the NASA Wavelength resource database, please use the attached resource PDF in lieu of nasawavelength.org URLs listed in slides. Original activity URLs should operate as normal.


Please join us for this month’s Universe of Learning science briefing as we explore hidden and modern figures of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Success in these STEM disciplines is not a given for many, especially women and people of color. There are hurdles and obstacles – many unseen and unrecognized – to reach key milestones for those who fall outside the traditional perception and background of what a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician should be and where they should come from. The speakers will briefly touch on the state of girls and women in STEM, offer their own career insights, discuss the opportunities presented by the current box office hit “Hidden Figures” and cover free STEM/STEAM programs that can assist your venue in its efforts to affect positive change for girls as they “STEAM ahead with NASA” during Women’s History month and beyond.


Kimberly Kowal Arcand is the Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which has its headquarters at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Arcand is a leading expert in studying the perception and comprehension of high-energy data visualization across the novice-expert spectrum. As a science data story teller she combines her background in molecular biology and computer science with her current work in the fields of astronomy and physics. She was a nominated "Changemaker" for the White House State of Women Summit in 2016, and recently won the Smithsonian Achievement Award in 2016. Arcand is also an award-winning producer, director and author. She currently serves as President for the Greater Boston Chapter of Federally Employed Women (FEW).

Dr. Jedidah Isler is currently a National Science Foundation Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University where she studies the physics of particle jets emanating from supermassive black holes at the centers of massive galaxies called blazars. She was recognized as a TED Fellow in 2015 and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2016 for her innovative research and efforts to inspire a new generation of STEM leaders from underrepresented backgrounds. She has been featured in various publications including Vanity Fair, Wired, NPR’s All Things Considered. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times. Dr. Isler works with schools, museums, libraries, and nonprofit organizations across the country to advance the cause of truly inclusive STEM engagement and has established herself as a champion of access and empowerment in STEM education from middle school and beyond. Most recently, she has been named a TED Senior Fellow to continue to develop and host the monthly web series she founded called “Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM.” Read more about Dr. Isler at http://www.jedidahislerphd.com.

Dr. Catherine "Cady" Coleman is an American chemist, a former United States Air Force officer, and a former NASA astronaut. A veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, she departed the International Space Station on May 23, 2011, as a crew member of Expedition 27 after logging 159 days in space. Coleman received a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983, and a doctorate in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1991 as a member of the Air Force ROTC. In 1988 Coleman entered active duty at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a research chemist. During her work she participated as a surface analysis consultant on the NASA Long Duration Exposure Facility experiment. Coleman was selected by NASA in 1992 to join the NASA Astronaut Corps. She retired from the Air Force in 2009 and from NASA in 2016.

Dr. Julie McEnery is the Project Scientist for the Fermi gamma-ray Space Telescope and an astrophysicist in the Astrophysics Science Division of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. She is an Adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, co-Director of the Joint Space Science Institute, Chair of the Division of Astrophysics and a fellow of the American Physical Society. Julie received a BSc in Physics with Astrophysics at the University of Manchester. She received a PhD from University College Dublin. She has also worked at the University of Utah, the University of Wisconsin and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Jessica Kenney is an Education Outreach Specialist in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). She received her Masters in Physics at Fisk University, as part of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program. She was introduced to STScI through the Space Astronomy Summer Program (SASP), for which she is now the Program Director. She has been a member of the Office of Public Outreach since 2011 where she works with the Hubble, JWST, and WFIRST education and communications teams, as well as with the broader NASA science education community, to communicate astrophysics content to students, educators, and the general public.