Empowering Women to Thrive in STEM with Kate Gunderson

Episode #60
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In a previous episode, you learned that there are many roles at NASA and its contractors that don't require you to be a “rocket scientist”. However, if you do have an aerospace engineering degree or background, there’s probably a position for you as well. In this episode, you’ll hear from the woman who got one of these positions herself.

Today, Kate Gunderson jumps on the show to talk about her life story all the way from a small town in North Dakota to landing her dream job at NASA. With a mechanical and aerospace engineering background, she elaborates on what she does at NASA’s Aircraft Operations Division, as well as her responsibilities as a Flight Science Officer.

As a woman in STEM coming from a really small town, her career challenges started really early in life. While still young, people in her hometown would always discourage her dream of working at NASA by saying that it would never happen. And then, while working towards her Bachelor’s degree, she faced even more struggles for being one of the few women in her classes.

Even with all that, she still managed to succeed in her field. And now she’s passionate about increasing female participation in engineering, and is on a mission to empower young women to confidently thrive in STEM fields.

Katelyn (Kate) Gunderson is a mechanical and aerospace engineer working at her dream job at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. She currently leads engineering projects on NASA’s fleet of aircraft utilized for astronaut training and direct return activities, and which fly earth science missions all over the world. Kate also flies as the youngest member of NASA’s aircrew, and one of Johnson Space Center’s only five Flight Science Officers.

Kate holds a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a Master’s in aerospace engineering specializing in structures and structural health monitoring from Georgia Tech, one of the country’s top aerospace engineering programs. While currently based in Houston, Texas, early next year Kate will be attending the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, California, through a fully funded flight test engineering fellowship where she will also receive a second Master’s degree.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

  • How She Got Her Dream Job at NASA Even Though She’s Been Told She Couldn’t Do It
  • Why Her Desire to Work at NASA Led Her to Pursue an Engineering Degree
  • How She Managed to Go From a Small Town to Being Accepted into Renowned Schools
  • The Work She’s Been Doing in the Aircraft Operations Division Since 2018
  • What a Flight Science Officer Does―And What You Need to Become One
  • How She Applies Her Structural Engineering Education to NASA’s Aircrafts
  • Why She Started Her Famous Instagram Account Helping Women Thrive in STEM
  • The #1 Challenge She’s Faced in Her Career That You Need to Be Aware of.

Resources Mentioned:

Connect With Kate:

Twitter (@theplanekate)
Instagram (@theplanekate)
TikTok (@theplanekate)

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