We are honoured to announce Mae Jemison, physician, professor and NASA astronaut, as the keynote speaker for The Undergraduate Awards Global Summit 2016.
As the first African-American woman in space, Jemison is credited with paving the way for women and people of colour in science and space exploration during the 1980s and beyond. Moreover, her pioneering innovation in diverse disciplines and professions has made her a crucial voice for the promotion of an interdisciplinary approach to research and activism.
Despite the barriers African-American women faced at the time, Jamison never doubted her ability to realise her dream of space travel:
“As a little girl growing up on the south-side of Chicago in the ‘60s I always knew I was going to be in space”
In pursuit of this childhood aspiration, she entered Stanford University in 1973 at the age of only 16 and graduated 4 years later with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, while also having fulfilled the requirements for a B.A. in African and Afro-American Studies. She then shifted the focus of her study to Medicine and obtained a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1981 from Cornell Medical School.
Jemison has always been hugely committed to providing medical services to those most in need and during her time at Cornell travelled to Cuba, Kenya and Thailand. From 1983 to 1985 she worked with the Peace Corps and was responsible for the healthcare of Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In 1987 her dream of becoming an astronaut become a reality when she was accepted on to NASA’s astronaut training programme, as one of only 15 successful candidates from over 2,000 applicants.
She flew her only space mission from September 12-20 1992, where she conducted research experiments on bone cells, weightlessness and motion sickness. She also had the opportunity to look down on her home from thousands of miles above:
“The first thing I saw from space was Chicago, my hometown. I was working on the middeck where there aren’t many windows, and as we passed over Chicago, the commander called me up to the flight deck. It was such a significant moment because since I was a little girl I had always assumed I would go into space.”
Jemison has never limited herself to the fields of science and medicine but rather is enthusiastic about a huge variety of subjects including education, dance, art and activism. In Stanford she served as the President of the Black Students Union and has used her platform to speak out about social issues in the US, healthcare in the developing world, as well as to promote a message of “reconciling and re-integrating science and the arts.”
Jemison was previously a speaker at The Undergraduate Awards Global Summit 2013 and we are extremely excited for a new generation of UA students to be inspired and moved by her passion and intelligence, because, as she put it herself: “Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t just have a dream, he got things done.”
Watch Mae Jemison at the Global Summit 2013: