Every dream job starts somewhere, and each
journey unfolds one decision at a time. For three women, it all began when they
were just high school students interested in High School Aerospace Scholar
(HAS), an extracurricular NASA program for high school Juniors in Texas.
For Christina Deoja it all started when she read
a newspaper article about a local student who had previously participated in
HAS while attending Lewisville High School in Lewisville, Texas. After
participating in HAS in 2003, she went to college at The University of Texas at
Dallas, majoring in electrical engineering. She also participated in the Texas
Aerospace Scholars (TAS) program in 2008. Now she’s the Electrical Power
Systems Lead for the Ascent Abort 2 Crew Module and Separation Ring, preparing the Orion
vehicle for test flights around the Moon and carrying humans to deep space.
For Antja Chambers, it all started when she got
involved in engineering programs in middle and high school in San Antonio. After
participating in HAS in 2000, she went to college at the University of Texas at
Austin, majoring in Aerospace Engineering. The she earned a Masters in
Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. She also participated in the
cooperative education program that allowed her to intern at Johnson space
Center during college. Now she’s the Deputy Branch Chief of the
Engineering Directorate’s Project Management Office and the Project Manager of
the Commercial Crew Vehicle Ammonia Scrubber, ensuring ammonia is removed from
the air of the commercial crew vehicle cabins to help enable the safe return of
the astronauts to Earth
For Laura Sarmiento it all started when heard
about the program from one of her friends just two days before the deadline
while attending James E. Taylor High School in Katy, Texas. After participating
in HAS in 2001, Sarmiento went to college at The University of Texas at Austin,
majoring in neurobiology and minoring in psychology. Now she’s a Flight Project
Manager implementing the human research experiments that are chosen to go on
the International Space Station, and she’s working on a master’s degree,
majoring in psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience, at
University of Houston Clear Lake.
For Becky Kamas it all started when she was
encouraged to apply to HAS by her science teacher while attending Rogers High
School in Rogers, Texas. After participating in HAS in 2000, Kamas went to
college at Texas A&M University, majoring in Mathematics. She also
participated in the Texas Fly High 2000 program, getting to test zero gravity
experiments on weightless flights aboard the KC-135 aircraft. Now she’s the
STEM on Station activity manager in NASA’s Office of STEM engagement, creating
opportunities for students and educators much like the ones that got her to
Johnson Space Center.
These women were able to start learning many of
the necessary skills for their future jobs at NASA, all while meeting some
amazing people during HAS and making memories of a lifetime.
“This program allowed me to see some of the real
issues engineers face when planning space exploration missions,” Chambers said.
agreed the experience confirmed her career choice. “I sat in the CapCom chair
in Mission Control. That moment solidified my love of all things space and NASA
forever,” Kamas said.
Even to this day, these alums haven’t left HAS.
They now volunteered for HAS and other mentorship programs, giving back to the
kids they used to be. In fact, they recommend this experience every time they
get a chance. Whether you’re a student looking for a potential STEM career or a
NASA employee who wants to volunteer, HAS is for you.
“This program is so rewarding because you get to
inspire and be inspired by these amazing students,” said Sarmiento. “I am
continuously impressed with the caliber of students and they continue to help
motivate and excite me about my job and the future of NASA.”
Deoja echoed Sarmiento’s remarks. “They
really are the best and brightest across Texas, and I love seeing their
excitement for NASA,” Deoja said.
HAS offers a one-of-a-kind experience for Texas
high school students to explore the possibilities of a science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM) related major or career. The adventure
starts in the fall with an online course and culminates - for students who earn
the opportunity - with an onsite summer experience at NASA's Johnson Space
If you or someone you know is interested is interested in HAS, you can
learn more about the program at has.aerospacescholars.org