Ain’t No Higher Flyer: Mae C. Jemison


by Vincent Tan

This woman has flown to space, been a doctor, started a successful business, taught at Dartmouth College, and before you think she’s all about the brain smarts, she’s an accomplished dancer as well.

Mae’s high flying career started when she got accepted at Stanford University at the tender age of 16, with a double major in chemical engineering, and African and Afro-American studies.

As if that’s not enough cred, she continued to earn her M.D. at Cornell University Medical College, and during her studies travelled to Cuba, Kenya and Thailand to provide primary medical care to people there before becoming a practising GP.

She also served with the Peace Corps as a medical officer in Sierra Leone and Liberia for 2.5 years before joining NASA to pursue her dream of being an astronaut. In 1992, she flew in the Endeavour, making her the first African-American woman in space where she carried out experiments in weightlessness and motion sickness.

Nothing is too difficult to achieve for Mae – she’s also been conferred multiple awards and 9 honorary degrees in engineering, humanities and science, among others, and even took up a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth after leaving NASA.

Her bulletproof CV names her as part of prestigious organisations like the American Medical Association, the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a co-director at the World Sickle Cell Foundation, and the founder of her own R&D company, the Jemison Group, to fund and develop new technologies.

The cherry on the many-tiered cake is Mae’s own accomplishments in the arts. As a proficient jazz dancer and choreographer, she also made a notable appearance in the sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation – the only real astronaut in the series.

To learn about other women heroes like Mae who have changed the face of STEM fields, check out our “Cheat Sheet – Women in STEM” in Campus Magazine, Issue #40.