Women Making a Difference: NASA scientist teaches students careers in science

HOUSTON – Vanessa Wyche is using her exemplary career at NASA to teach Houston students that they too can have amazing careers in science and technology, no matter where they grew up.

"If their dream is to be a doctor or to be an astronaut, (I) just to encourage them to follow their dreams,” she said.

Wyche works as the director of exploration, innovation and science at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and has spent her entire life pursuing her love of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

"My brother got a chemistry set one Christmas, and so my brother and I did experiments in the backyard,” Wyche said. “After that, I was completely hooked.

That fascination with how things work eventually led her to NASA, where she began as a project engineer, developing biomedical hardware that would fly on the space shuttle. She currently assists in planning and creating technology for future space missions, including a prospective mission to Mars.

But for Vanessa, sharing her passion seems to be as important as the job itself. She meets with elementary, middle and high school students to promote science and to discuss her work at NASA.

"You'll see the amazement in their eyes when they look around and they see, 'Oh wow, I could possibly be the astronaut that goes to Mars,’” Wyche said

She has also been working with students at Gregg Elementary School in Southeast Houston to create science experiments they will display in their own science fair.

Wyche explained that exposing children to STEM who might not have experienced it is an incredibly important way to recruit future engineers and scientists, especially at a time where NASA has been thrust to the forefront of popular culture once again.

"With 'Hidden Figures' coming out, I've been asked to speak in New York, New Jersey, California all across the country -- where people are really interested to see what NASA does.”