Aisha Al Hammadi, an aerospace engineering student, shares her experiences with STEM, what attracted her to the sciences, and the changing perceptions around women in the field.
Emirati Aisha Al Hammadi, 18, is in her first year of a four-year undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering, at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi. She describes her passion for unfolding the mysteries of space – and her dreams to one day become an astronaut.
"I’m studying Aerospace Engineering but part of my course is about studying space, and that’s the part I love. When I was 16 my school organised a trip to the NASA Space Center in Houston, Texas. I didn’t know much about NASA but it was an incredible experience and we met real astronauts, who were truly inspiring. I was particularly interested by the fact that there are so many ‘unknowns’ about space, that there is so much still to be learned and that so far we have actually discovered relatively little.
"I’ve always been a problem-solver, and perhaps that’s what attracted me to the sciences in the first place. I’m a big fan of mathematics and physics, and I love that they are so absolute: either something is true, or it is false, completely 100 per cent right, or completely 100 per cent false. At the time of our visit to NASA, at high school, I was studying both sciences and humanities, but in the sciences I was in the advanced class so they were always teaching me more complex concepts, and I found that I was capable of learning at this higher level.
"Today my family are very proud of me for going into a field that has perhaps traditionally been seen as male-dominated. In the UAE we are changing perceptions of what women are capable of, and my family are supporting me in developing myself, so that one day in the future I can in turn help my country to develop.
"The recent launch of the new UAE Space Agency is very exciting and I am hoping to go there when I graduate, or to one of the many new companies that are taking aerospace engineers. The country is very serious about the development of its domestic space industry, and wants to develop to a level to match the US and UK, Russia and Japan. When I graduate I am hoping to be able to support them in this mission.
"Ultimately, it is my dream to go into space. The astronomer Steve Kelly recently came back from spending a year in orbit, where he took more than a thousand pictures and kept the world updated every day via Twitter. The photos were incredible and I hope one day to see that view with my own eyes. I’d also like to set foot on Mars, somewhere completely new, on behalf of the UAE.
"Those ambitions inspire me to study hard, instead of wasting time playing video games and sitting in front of the television. Even when it’s tough or I’m tired, I keep going because I know that if I continue my journey then I will be able to satisfy my hopes in the future. Today, everything is possible – on this world, and beyond."
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