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Spotlight on Women: Dr. Mae Jemison

Updated: Mar 21

In the Navy, you meet a lot of interesting people from many walks of life. In 1993, our Chief Strategy Officer, Ret. Captain Kevin Uhrich, back then a Lieutenant Commander, met one such person who was visiting on board the ship he served as Executive Officer on, the USS Puget Sound AD-38. Her name was Dr. Mae Jemison: a doctor, engineer, former NASA Astronaut, and so much more.



Mae Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. Her mother was an elementary school teacher, and her father was a maintenance supervisor. Jemison knew she wanted to study science from a young age after growing up watching the Apollo missions on TV. But at the time, there were no female astronauts. She was determined to be one.


Jemison graduated from high school in 1973 at 16 years old. After, she attended Stanford University as one of the only African American students in her class. She graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in African and African American studies. Upon graduation, she attended Cornell Medical School and graduated in 1981 with a Doctorate in Medicine. Following her medical internship and practice, Jemison served as a medical officer in the Peace Corps before returning to work in a private practice.


Inspired by Sally Ride, the first American women in space, Jemison applied to NASA in 1987 and was accepted. For the next few years, she trained and worked at the Kennedy Space Center and Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory. In 1992, she joined the STS-47 crew as a Mission Specialist. On September 12, 1992, Jemison went to space aboard the Endeavor, where she became the first African American woman in space. Along with six other astronauts, they spent 8 days in space before returning to Earth.

Dr. Mae Jemison's official NASA portrait
Source: NASA Image and Video Library

Since Jemison has left NASA, she has continued to inspire working on a variety of projects. She started the Jemison Group, a consulting company focused on science, technology, and social change ad a space camp for students called The Earth We Share. She began teaching at Dartmouth College and Cornell University and directed the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries. Having been inspired by Nichelle Nichols playing Lt. Uhura on Star Trek in her youth, Jemison was the first real astronaut to appear on an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation. More recently. Jemison is working with the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on the 100 Year Starship project.


Additionally, the multi-talented Jemison is also fluent in Russian, Japanese, and Swahili. She has written several books, been awarded numerous honors, and is on the Board of Directors of many important organizations in the Texas region. Dr. Mae Jemison is an extraordinary woman who has helped so many other women pave their way forward in medicine, engineering, and science.


Sources:

1. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mae-jemison

2. https://www.biography.com/astronaut/mae-c-jemison

3. USS Puget Sound Cruise book, 1993

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