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Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day: Meet Paromita Mitra


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February 20, 2019

As we celebrate Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, part of the broader National Engineers Week, NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement aims to encourage the future female workforce to consider a career path in engineering and be part of the next generation of explorers.

 

Paromita Mitra always dreamed of studying medicine and following in her father’s footsteps. However, that changed after she migrated from Bangladesh to Mississippi, where she and her brother became fascinated with astronomy. She had never considered a career in engineering and was not aware of the possibilities it could bring. When her high school physics teacher made the connection, Mitra realized a career in aerospace engineering would combine some of her hobbies and passions.

 

With that, Mitra’s aerospace journey had begun, and she knew where she wanted to end: at NASA.

 

Mitra shared her newfound love for aerospace in a divergent realm—the pageant world. As Mitra competed in pageants and pursued her degree, she leveraged her platform to focus on encouraging young people to pursue a path in STEM.

 

“In science, technology, engineering and math, it is very important to have female representation, [as] the future of our world is technology,” Mitra said. “As engineers, you are responsible to create technology that encompasses all types of people. If you are leaving out females, you are leaving out the possibility of impacting a generation.”

 

Mitra competed in pageants across Mississippi. She held the title of Miss Teen Mississippi 2009 and, when she attended Mississippi State University, she won the title of Miss Maroon and White 2011.

 

Always striving for greatness, she decided to run inand wonMiss Mississippi USA 2013. There, she began to draw a comparison between competing and following her dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer. Mitra took some time to work following her senior year. Before she began graduate school, she crossed paths with a female aerospace engineer from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Carrie Olsen, who became a strong mentor and encouraged Mitra to pursue a career with NASA. Despite working three part-time jobs, Mitra participated in a volunteer internship at Marshall in the Guidance, Navigation and Mission Analysis Branch so she could get exposure to her NASA dream for the first time.

 

Mitra continued to persevere through graduate school and was a recipient of a NASA Space Grant Graduate Research Fellowship. Her research was a benchmark for heads-up displays on spacesuits. She also had the opportunity to continue her path with NASA through the University Space Research Association’s NASA Internships program, where she interned at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Her research resulted in the NASA S.U.I.T.S (Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students) Design Challenge.

 

“S.U.I.T.S became a program because there was a problem that needed to be solved, and for other prospective engineering students to contribute to,” Mitra said.

 

Today, Mitra is a Human Interface engineer at Johnson in Houston, where she continues to work through the research she began in graduate school. She wants all girls who are considering a career in engineering to remember, “You need to work hard, see yourself in the career you want to pursue and seek out mentors along the way to guide you.”

 

While an education in a STEM field has been essential to her success, Mitra is thankful, too, for her past experiences with pageants due to the strength and emotional intelligence she gained along the way. She also credits her achievements to having strong female mentors throughout her journey.

 

Engineering is typically a male-dominated arena simply because people assume it involves working with and repairing equipment. What most young people don’t realize is that engineering requires creativity and zealaspects often overlooked.

 

“There are challenges,” Mitra said. “You aren’t part of a boys’ club. You need to really prove yourself, show your skills … [and] as long as you’re confident in your own intellect, you can be successful.”

 

By raising awareness of the contributions engineers have made to the community and talking to students who are not aware of their career possibilities, today—and every day—we have the opportunity to Introduce a Girl to Engineering. These women are poised to be the future leaders who challenge themselves to solve problems and act as agents of innovation.

 

Paromita Mitra works on the heads-up display prototype on the Mark III spacesuit. Image Credit: Chase Neal, Mississippi State University



Nilufar Ramji

NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement