Heather teaching Girl Scouts.

Education

Brookings High School/Brookings, SD
BYU, University of Rhode Island & Rhode Island College
Biology

What first sparked your interest in space and science?

My father was a biology professor for 37 years so growing up I was privy to wonderfully detailed scientific explanations to my incessant questions about the world around me.

When I was too young to be at home alone during the summer school break, I would go to work with dad and roam the halls of the university biology department where I found rooms with animals preserved in jars, large insect collections as well as a salt water tank with sea anemones.

Later on in college when I was deciding on a major, I tried to think of times in my life when I was the most interested and excited about what I was doing or learning and quickly I realized that I had inherited my love of science from my dad.

How did you end up working in the space program?

I have worked in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, both formal and informal for most of my career. I was at the National Science Teachers Association conference presenting and I met a JPL education staffer who shared with me that there were education and public engagement jobs at NASA.

Tell us about your job. What do you do?

As the Public Engagement Networks Supervisor, I manage programs that work to tell NASA's space exploration story in a fun and engaging way - through events, websites and hands-on programs that speak to NASA missions, science and spin offs. The programs I supervise are:

  • Solar System Ambassadors - a nationwide network of volunteers who run events in their communities that feature NASA mission and science.
  • Space Place and Climate Kids websites - NASA sites for kids to find answers to the big questions about Earth and space science through interactive games, videos and articles.
  • Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) - Partnered with NASA scientists and other observatories from around the world, the GAVRT program allows students to operate a 34 meter (112 foot) radio telescope from their classroom to do citizen science research and exploration.

What's one piece of advice you would give to others interested in a similar career?

Be a positive, solution provider and you will go far in any type of career! Also network and meet lots of people who can inspire you and connect you with possibilities.

What are some fun facts about yourself?

Beyond my love for space and science, I love animals, art and travel. My favorite holiday is Dia de los Muertos.

What is your favorite space image and why?

Pillars of Creation is one of my favorites because it is the universe's star nursery.

Beautiful massive columns of dust and stars in deep space.
These towering tendrils of cosmic dust and gas sit at the heart of M16, or the Eagle Nebula. Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)