Donya Douglas, NASA
Designing the equation for how to reach the stars
Donya Douglas has enjoyed a rewarding 18-year career of space flight work, primarily focused on technology development in spacecraft design. Currently, the Instrument Systems branch associate head at NASA‚Äôs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Douglas has been involved in several development projects that have helped NASA‚Äôs mission for space exploration, such as her assignment to the Space Technology 8 Project Thermal Loop Technology, a program designed to fly four new technologies into space. She led the concept development, design, integration, and testing of an advanced thermal management system for the spacecrafts.
As she works to further the goals of her organization, she is also keenly focused on improving opportunity and awareness for black students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Douglas, who loved math and science as a child and by high school decided she would one day work for NASA, also wants to dispel the stigma that these disciplines are difficult and boring. Just over a million blacks were employed as scientists and engineers in 2006, compared with 14,472,000 whites, according to the National Science Foundation. Douglas believes the reason blacks are so underrepresented in these areas is connected to the lack of engagement students experience in the classroom.
The Technology All-Star Award recipient (an honor she was given in September 2008 by the Career Communications Group, a company which aides organizations in finding and retaining minority technologists) spends countless hours speaking to and mentoring children and young adults. She is also a volunteer with Goddard SISTER, a summer program created for middle school girls to explore opportunities in nontraditional career fields.
‚ÄúBeing able to motivate young women and enabling them to see another professional woman makes me feel pretty good,‚ÄĚ says Douglas. ‚ÄúI [want] to inspire and empower people so they can be the best that they can be.‚ÄĚ She recalls a girl who was able to complete a science puzzle in a workshop almost immediately. ‚ÄúI looked at her and I saw this interest and drive,‚ÄĚ says Douglas. ‚ÄúI said, ‚ÄėYou know what? I think you would make an awesome engineer.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Douglas also develops and teaches technology workshops with SisterMentors, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that strives to increase the number of Ph.D.‚Äôs among women of color.