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[SPEAKER] We're continuing to celebrate Women's History Month through, conversation with the coal Smith and class of 97 joining us today.
For the conversation and webinar are Dana Cox in the Cole's method.
Dana is a professor of mathematics and Miami is College of Arts and Science.
She received her PhD in mathematics education from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she studied the design and analysis of mathematics curriculum for 12 students.
While she enjoys teaching all types of math courses at Miami, her favorite course to teach is problem-solving with technology.
She is especially interested in the features of curriculum that enable mathematics teachers to elicit, document, and share student thinking.
In a recent study, she and her co-author examined the role of prototyping in mathematical problem solving.
And using, used the lenses of engineering design and design thinking to study how students engage with medical, mathematical modeling tasks.
For the past year, she has been serving as the special assistant to the provost for faculty affairs.
And in the wake of covered 19 co-lead the safe return to campus planning important eating committee here.
Outside of work, Dana enjoys reading in photography.
She also volunteers at local elementary schools on mathematics initiatives and has coached two Destination Imagination teams for tell on the school's Welcome to Nicole and Dana.
And thank you for taking the time to join us this evening.
There were questions that were collected during registry.
And our panelists will address some of those throughout the webinar.
This evening, you'll also have the option to ask questions during the webinar by clicking the Ask a Question button on the bottom of your screen.
Please note that in the interest of time, we have available, we may not get to every question today is or tonight's webinar will last about an hour, including time for question and answers.
So with that, I will turn it over to Dana to get us started.
[SPEAKER] Hey, thank you, Emily.
And welcome Nicole.
For everybody out there on the coast, Nicole Smith is the is the chief of the Exploration Systems Office at NASA on age Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
Where she manages a broad portfolio of projects supporting human exploration of space.
Previously issue as a project manager for Orion testing at Plum Brook Station, completing environmental testing of the Artemis one spacecraft, which we'll hear more about later.
I have schedule as well as Michigan critical evaluation.
Be ascent award to and European service module test articles.
She has experience in the big three areas related to human spaceflight, engineering, mission operations and program management for the International Space Station and Orion programs at both Johnson and Glenn.
Nicole was also a legislative Fellow supporting the senior senator from Ohio as an aerospace and manufacturing expert.
She takes her role as a civil servant seriously and has served on the board of directors for both hardheaded women in Ohio and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
She's a member of the Miami University college of engineering and computing, invited.
Council and the Women's Advisory Council.
She earned bachelor's degree in mathematics and statistics, and aeronautics for Miami University and a master's in aerospace engineering from the University of Cincinnati.
When do you find time to sleep?
I don't know.
I got tired.
[SPEAKER] Just listening to you.
You you give my bio.
[SPEAKER] Pretty impressive.
What [inaudible].
[SPEAKER] I enjoyed hearing some of your research in your extracurriculars, Pretty cool stuff, Dana.
[SPEAKER] Thanks.
So how did you start like this a lot in looking back at your life, you're like, wow, how did I get here?, How did you get there?.
[SPEAKER] My guys.
Well do you want to go all the way back?
All the way back.
So I was born in Medina, Ohio, which is about an hour south of Cleveland.
And my mom and dad are both lifelong learners, but not they were not able to be formally educated.
Their families didn't have a lot of money.
And so, you know, when they started having kids, they're like, You're going to college.
That was kind of the thing you can be whatever you want but you're going to college.
And I was an only child and it was kinda cool because I got to do a little bit everything.
I got to try all sorts of stuff.
I played with Hot Wheels, cars, and bulldozers and did ballet class and took piano lessons.
So I kind of got to experience a lot of everything.
And so came to Miami is a first gen student.
I had some really amazing teachers in high school.
Most notably my geometry class and my calculus class.
Yeah, and math.
They were maths that for the first time in my life, I had struggled with.
And those teachers really took the time with me and helped me see them and see the problems a different way.
And being able to solve complex math problems just really excited me.
It was really cool.
So I started at Miami as mathematics and statistics major, and I think I had the mind to or doing your job, Dana, being a professor, but it didn't take me too long to realize that when you get into higher math, a lot of it doesn't have numbers in it anymore.
And I'm very much an applied person and I need to be able to visualize things.
So I did, as you noted, keep the mathematics and statistics major and graduated with Bachelors in that.
But about halfway through my freshman year, I started looking around and I thought, what's one of the hardest things that I can do.
And I saw the aeronautics kids out in the quiet like DA shooting off rockets and doing model planes and stuff.
And I thought they have the best toys.
So I decided that I wanted to be an aerospace engineer.
So I added that major and I added a Mechanical Engineering minor.
Pull it all together.
And then I did my masters at of Cincinnati in aerospace engineering.
So I majored in computational fluid dynamics and minored in propulsion.
So I joke that those actually make me rocket scientists.
So, but anyway.
So yeah, sorry, I kind of started like very strangely, right?
Because it's like here's this kid growing up who does ballet and piano in marching band and stuff.
And then next thing you know, she's going to be an engineer and my parents were like, that's interesting.
I mean, they love it, but they're like [inaudible] come from, you know.
But when you look back, you can kind of see the roots of it, I guess.
Starting up like career wise.
So my first job out of when I graduated from Miami, I became an intern between undergrad and grad at Lockheed Martin in Houston, which is an engineering firm.
And supported NASA's [inaudible] space center.
So I started with engineering down there and I did some engineering analysis with the space shuttle and the Space Station.
And I really loved it.
I just fell in love with the work.
I had always loved astronomy.
And so I kept working down there in, on summers in grad school., and then they hired me full time in june of 99 when I finished up with my graduate work at Cincinnati.
And then in April of 2 thousand nasa, which was just across the street, gave me a job offer to come over and train astronauts.
And cosmonauts about international space.
So you shun electrical and thermal systems.
So I became a federal employee at that point in time and started training astronauts and which was pretty interesting by you can kind of sort of seeing where my career starts to sort of take a little bit of like a rambling path, right?
So I started out doing computational dynamics and then I'm going to train astronauts about thermal includes systems, but also electrical systems and then I went worked in the Space Station program office as the electrical systems integrator.
And I also led an effort called contingency spacewalks.
So there's a lot of really important electrical informal control hardware on the outside of space station.
That if it fails, you are in a situation that they call basically like 0 fault tolerant.
So one more failure and everything shuts down and you have to come home.
So I lead the whole effort to be able to fly all the spare hardware and mixture all the tools were on orbit and make sure all the procedures were laid out and we'd assessed all the risk and astronauts were trained and I mean, so it was a really cool efforts.
So at that point, I kind of learned like how the whole vehicle works, right.
So I learned how a vehicle works when I was an instructor and I learned how the vehicle works, treated astronauts and looking at these huge failure scenarios, that sounds like an obvious pressure.
I mean, look at failure scenario.
And sending people out into space to [inaudible] problems.
[SPEAKER] Was but we had a team of people, right.
So so I started the team and then a really great person who ended up becoming a good friend of mine in the flight director office, joined up with me and we co-lead the team.
And so., you know I had at my disposal a number of technical experts who could answer these questions.
I mean, I didn't have to know everything myself, which was which was great.
The one thing I had to be able to do was ask all the right questions.
So be inquisitive and explore and make sure that we had, you know, covered all the bases, right.
And so I think along right around that time and that's a skill that I developed that I carried forward later as a project manager and now as a, as a manager, to be able to ask the right questions.
And really, you know, look for how firm., everything is been assessed, planned.
The logistics of something and be able to see several levels out.
[SPEAKER] So when you were first describing your transition away from mathematics, it was I was going to know that it's almost like your inserts, good problem-solving opportunities that you've helped that mathematics may be turn more theoretical and you are looking for more problems to kind of sink your teeth into.
Now, I'm hearing elements of problem posing that it's about asking the question.
It's about looking at what you have and being curious about what else you do yeah.
That's an interesting point and I don't think I've ever really thought about it that way.
It's almost in reverse, right?
So, so you search to solve a problem and then in my case, I'm searching for what the problem could be and how do we solve it in advance.
So I always say that I manage my projects to risk, right?
So I man.
Risk across the board.
And a good project manager is somebody who tries to look past the second hurdle.
And say, okay, what could be out there that I can do something about now to take that off the table.
And the answer is like there's always something out there that you can't possibly think of.
I'll give you an example.
So here I go today.
I completed the testing of the Artemis one spacecraft.
And literally today we put it on the super gappy aircraft and flew it back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It was a four month long test to basically, I guess I would use the word qualify the spacecraft for flight to the moon.
The first one that was here will fly without people wanted.
The second one, which is pretty much just like it.
And with a couple of upgrades, will fly with humans.
And that's just a couple years down the road.
So, you know, it was a really, really important test.
So we it had planned, we knew for mine slake this is about the amount of time all the work is going to take.
You, know we have to transported this Nat.
What came to the United States last year.
Ended January, beginning of February.
Covid so we had a 150 people in a test facility.
All of them experts in some way, shape, or form, right?
Technicians for the spacecraft, technicians for the facility.
Project manager, engineers, people working on console for the spacecraft, and all of a sudden, we were in a mad scramble to try to finish up the work, get as many people out of here as we could because we didn't know how really how well we didn't understand the transmission of it.
We thought we could have it already.
We don't know.
So we were trying to get it out of there and then stuff started shutting down and we were like, oh gosh, you know, like, can we be out on road?
We have air force personnel who support us in this transportation.
We had to get special permission, which is like a whole other level of getting approvals.
You have to go up through.
I remember what it's called, but like these really high ranks in the military to be able to get them to agreed, to send people to support us.
So that's one of those things like, Gee, I planned for this and that and the other thing, but I never thought to try to mitigate the risk of a global pandemic.
So there's always something hopefully, will never have that again.
Hopefully this is a once in a lifetime thing.
[SPEAKER] Yeah, we didn't get Covid a university kind of championships for sure.
[SPEAKER] For sure.
I think you guys did a really great job pivoting.
I know it was really hard because you'd be exclusive to students who wants spring break, right?
Pretty much.
And then it was like, oh now what?
So at that moment when we were setting this spring break and making about that, you are making decisions about moving a major piece of equipment, and doing your final test?.
So I think the state of Ohio, I want to say they shut down on it was I think WAS St.
Patrick's day actually the seventies.
Remember that was that was like the primary.
They cancelled it.
And that was really when stuff started to close.
I think closed on the 13th, which was the Friday before.
And but we were still working because we are considered mission critical.
We we didn't.
Now, how long this would last.
And while we are well outfitted to test, the spacecraft, we were not outfitted to take care of that spacecraft, do maintenance on it, continue.
It's billed or whatever.
All of that hardware is down at Kennedy.
And so we were like we looked at the option of leaving it here and sheltering IN place AND WE RE like, it could be like four months.
Here WE ARE year later, right?
And we're still not not back, so we just said we can't afford that.
Let's get it out of here and get it back to Florida where it'll be it'll be safer because it's in the building with all the hardware that it needs to take care of it.
It So yeah, it was.
It was pretty intense to go through that final couple of weeks, kind of racing the clock and then also trying to keep each other safe.
I mean, we were we were just wiping down every service that we can possibly get, put a Clorox cloth ON, YOU know, so we just we didn't know at that point, we were just doing our best to try to keep everyone safe.
[SPEAKER] Yet almost if they added space was the only place you could go to get away from coal?.
Sadly, that's probably true.
[SPEAKER] People listening who may not know what Artemis is.
Can you just give us a brief primer on what it is and really grew.
[SPEAKER] Yeah, absolutely.
So Artemis is Nasa's progr.
To send the first woman and the next man to the moon.
So from Greek Mythology, Artemis and Apollo were twins.
Apollo was the god of the sun and Artemis is the goddess of the moon.
Apollo was Nasa's program to the moon as part of the 1960 space race.
We landed, I think six missions on the Moon.
There were actually seven that went, but Apollo 13 just orbited because they had technical issues.
And the last time we landed, people on the moon was before I was even born.
So, so nasa.
It is going to send women to those surface of the moon.
And we are going to explore the South Pole.
We think robotically that we found water on the South Pole.
We are going to go take a look at it.
We're going to go do some science.
We're going to use that as a little bit to understand a little more about where we come from.
In the universe, what the moon means to us and the Earth.
And also do a number of habitation and other scientific experiments that will help us be able to live on another planetary body.
[SPEAKER] Holly cow.
So sending the person and the next man into space is a pretty huge project.
And it also kind of brings up women and this is women's limits History Month here.
What is your path as a woman in engineering?
What is that?
And how did you encounter that?.
So it was really interesting when I when I first started at Lockheed and I was an engineering, I was in a group where I WAS ONE woman AND a group OF 35 people.
And I was the youngest by about 15 years at that point.
So that was.
This is really I think just shocky, right?
It was surprising and I never I never considered myself to be a pioneer until I kind of saw some of that.
I mean, when I was at Miami, [inaudible] very small at the time because they were sort of ramping down the program.
And I think there six of us who graduated and I was only woman, but I didn't even think about it.
You guys, treat me like one of the guys, right?
So this was not a thing and then going, to work, I was like oh, this is interesting, okay.
And I just kinda went along and just worked really hard and tried to put a good foot forward so they'd want to hire me.
You know, I've had encountered some stuff through the years.
I have I had a boss who was not.
A great guy to work for, who can keep his hands himself.
I think happens less and less these days thing God.
Really I think you know the term that I really liked that people use is microaggression.
I think that's really more what you see where you just you struggled to get your voice heard.
I think a lot of female engineers have have dealt with that through the years.
But, you know, I've been really lucky and happy to have a lot of great allies and great mentors, both men and women.
And they've made it, you know.
A really wonderful experience.
I've been working for the agency for 21 years and then I was [inaudible] because three years before that and it's just been really incredible.
So I'm super happy to see a program that is putting an emphasis on doing you know something groundbreaking.
A lot of the program management within Artemis, so the Orion spacecraft itself, the program is run by a woman named Kathy Cornor, you know, we've got women in lot of the top ranks for the space launch system, rocket and then the head of the Human Exploration and operations.
Mission Directorate is a woman capping leaders who I actually worked for a long time ago on the space station program.
And I think that a lot of women in engineering have are able to look at things from a little bit of a different angle.
And I think they're excellent integrators.
And again, I talked about like being able to see kind of beyond the next thing, right?
And look at the whole larger picture.
I'm really excited about the direction that we're heading again to try to see more women.
At NASA and just in engineering in general, which is why I do stuff like this.
And work with the university.
[SPEAKER] Yeah, sure.
I kind of reaching back and paving the way for other women who want to take that path.
And you said that you didn't always consider yourself a pioneer and you hadn't considered yourself a pioneer until you got on the job.
What are some ways that you are a pioneer?
And are shaping the field as a woman in engineering.
Oh my goodness.
That's really great question.
And I can come back.
[SPEAKER] I mean, i guess I think, you know, I'd say most women in engineering probably all say the same thing like, I'm not what are but I do think that I always worked really, really hard to be the best I can possibly be.
And to prepare myself for the next opportunity that could present itself.
And when that opportunity comes I go for it.
I don't tell myself, no.
I make somebody else tell me no.
Which was one of the best pieces of advice I ever got from a mentor.
And two I tried to take a lot of time outs to be visible.
So one of the I think I want to say it was Verizon did a campaign a couple years ago.
And if you can see her, you can be her.
And I believe that's very true.
So you kmow there's a lot of data and that's through the years like.
You know, girls who want to go into the health care industry become nurses.
And nurses are great.
There's nothing wrong with being a nurse at all, but they don't necessarily think that they can be a doctor because all the doctors they see are men and it's just a subconscious thing, right?
And I think a lot of girls who are good at math and science or interested in stuff up until a few years ago, didn't necessarily know what engineers did.
And I think some of the engineering disciplines still really struggle with that, right?
So like I think with aerospace, there's a little bit of a coolness factor because you're like, whoa, cleans and rockets.
You can kind of visualize that pretty easily, but so I do a lot of work with mechanical and manufacturing engineering department AND ME AND I think that mechanical engineering tends to have one of the lowest percentages of women, which is.
Really unfortunate because I think it's great visualizing your hands on it.
I mean, it's it's right there.
But I think a lot of women, associated with the auto industry.
[SPEAKER] There are mechanical engineers everywhere doing everything you don't have to be a car buff.
I mean, I am I like I like fun cars.
So but you know, you don't have to be a carb off to be a mechanical.
There's so many job opportunities, so I think just being a woman in aerospace or a woman in engineering and being out there being able to be seen and being able to talk with folks like, you know, I'm a normal person too right.
I'm here, I'm a woman, you know.
Yes, I work on on rockets and things like that, but, you know, it's cool.
You should do a to.
[SPEAKER] That's a pretty heavily involved in recruiting new engineers your heavily involved in helping my yummy improve its and human program and kind of just making sure that the biggest possible pipeline for people in general in engineering exists from Miami to the world.
What is your best career advice for new grads or people who are looking to break into.
You, do [SPEAKER].
I think be honest with yourself.
Be honest with yourself about what you know and what you don't know.
I think that is one of the most important lessons because I think every every person graduates and then get into there.
New job and they think that nad, the Imposter Syndrome, they think of themselves oh my gosh.
My boss is going to find out that I don't know how to do this.
And fired and you know,.
[SPEAKER] You go through engineering school to learn all the basics of engineering.
And when you get to work, they're going to teach you there.
Or to what they, what they want you to do at that point, you just need to be really hard working.
Have the ability to grasp and learn.
Asking questions, et cetera.
So if you're honest with yourself about what you know and what you don't know and you're confident in that.
I think that really will do you a lot of favors.
So your confident.
I don't know that things I'm going to ask a question because I don't think I'm supposed to know that thing.
Or, hey, I know that thing.
You're arguing with me about that.
Let's talk about that because I do know that.
So there's kind of two sides of the being honest with yourself and having that confidence and what you know, what you know.
The resilience thing that's really more for women.
So I want to encourage younger female engineers that if in your first job out of school, you don't like it or you don't you're not in a good environment.
Don't immediately assume that it's you.
Find a different job and try something else in engineering because you could just be in a pocket of toxic atmosphere, right?
Could have that boss, right?
That's just not a good fit for you.
For whatever reasons.
So the resilience part is hanging there and believe that you can do it.
And if it's a bad situation, you know, look for a different place to work because there are some.
Great places out there.
You don't, you don't need to suffer through that.
[SPEAKER] That's really interesting because when you're a student of any age, you're constantly looking for feedback about whether or not you're doing the right thing or you're learning the right things and it's all the feedback is, is from, the outside, internal.
That's really great.
And when you get into the first workplace, sometimes if it's not going, that's not feedback.
For you, it's just feedback on the [inaudible] or feedback on the atmosphere.
I think that's really important thing, right?.
[SPEAKER] Yeah, I think so too SO TOO because, YOU know, I beat myself up in jobs before.
Two and then just.
This is my boss and my personality aren't working working for whatever it's not clicking or whatever it is or my personality was organization like our so just it works for other people, maybe, but maybe not for me.
[SPEAKER] It's not always easy to find community.
It's not always easy to surround yourself with people you know who inspire you and make you think about all the things.
How, how have you been able to kind of surround yourself with community and people that the [inaudible] yeah.
So Let's see a couple of different ways.
You know, everybody always talks about networking.
And so that's always the easier answer is getting involved with an organization.
So like when I, was at Cincinnati and also then when I went to Houston, I was involved with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and I met so many great people.
And I've got to cut my teeth on some like leadership and lakes, mall project management type stuff as volunteerism.
At a time when I was a junior to maybe do that in my job.
And so I think you know joining an organization, doing some work are voluntary.
If you can, I think that is a really good way to build a community.
The other way that I build a lot of community, are with my project teams that I've lead and that's really more being, I think empathetic and learning, understanding the people who are on my team, really understanding each one of them as an individual.
And then trying to manage the team.
Understanding each one of those individuals.
You know, what their strengths are, what maybe something gaps might be, and how to really pull out.
The best work from each of them to motivate them.
And then also just try to build that sense of team with them.
And so I think that my last project team would tell you that, you know, with me like the buck stops here, sort of thing or also that I would like go to the mattresses.
To use a godfather term for them, right.
So I would be in a meeting and we'd be going over some of the things that we were discussing or the schedule or whatever and I would challenge them right.
I would be a little bit hard driving with them, like hey I think you guys can do that faster.
Like I rather hold contingency at the ad.
And just in case something goes wrong, like, why why is it doing this little block?
But they knew that I might challenge them.
But when I went to the program with whatever we needed, they also knew I would them defend to the death.
So, being able to build that sort of a rapport, we were really like a family out there there.
Pretty cool.
They're pretty great group of people.
[SPEAKER] So engineering is all about problem-solving and creating these large machines that will work from a far.
But you're also building these humans structures around all of this, around the project and and it's a Wow.
And engineers, we never wanted admit that like Soft Skills, the intangibles.
But they're huge I mean, those things are huge.
And I'll give you I'll tell you something so I know several people at at nasa.
Who graduated from Miami is engineering programs over the years.
And one thing I think that we do Great.
Well, let me put one thing I think Miami does great job at is developing very well-rounded engineer.
So engineer to come out who can communicate.
Verbally and written, who work well together on teams, and who are very, very technically competent, right?
So i think that, but I think the two initial areas are the most important ability to communicate and ability to work well on teams.
And I think that is something that the university.
So you should really embrace because you know, it's something that's really special.
And I think all over the Miami grads that only the ones that I know it works so they are all really well known and admired for those skills.
That's great to hear.
It seems like that would be this.
But I've also seen evidence that Miami grad and other majors and other areas also develop those those team-building skills and also the ability to ask.
Questions and to engage others and see the world from another person's.
Uh, we, we always complain about the miami plan for liberal education.
The foundation courses and stuff.
But I think there's something to it that helps develop that sort of wider, more global view.
And know to within CDC, they work really hard to give everybody a much wider view of the world in all their classes.
[SPEAKER] We've talked all the current students out there and we've talked about all the employers, future employers out.
The recent grads, the alumni out there.
You're plugged into a number of different advice groups and you give so much of your time what would you recommend to others who are looking to engage with Miami again yeah I would just I'd say just do it So honestly, especially with women in engineering.
We need to keep the pipeline, right?
So the senior leaders need to reach down and help the new grads.
And the new grads need to reach down and help the college students in the college students need to reach down and help their kids sisters up, prey.
And so there, there's a pipeline thing and then helping each other out.
So we want to stay here, right?
Because I think that that whole idea of trying to build a critical mass of women in engineering is really important so I would just say if you can do any sort of outreach or Agassi is huge I like working with the Women's Advisory Committee.
It's been a really amazing experience working with all different women from different generations and backgrounds at all whom graduated from Miami, but also have worked in a number of different fields