Dr. Renee Horton Inspires Students to Soar High

4 Apr 2018
ByMilan Kristal Acosta, Position TitleGabriel Landrein Buendia '23

"Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable."

This quote by Janelle Monae exemplifies Dr. Renee Horton's life experience as a female scientist working for NASA. Dr. Horton spent time with the middle schoolers during a March Town Hall, where she discussed her career path and desire to become an astronaut. Her hearing impairment may not have allowed her to pursue her lifelong dream of going into space, but instead propelled her into the study of aeronautics. As one of a few women of color scientists at NASA, she often encountered challenges working in a primarily male dominated profession. Dr. Horton candidly spoke about having to prove herself as an African-American woman amongst her Caucasian male colleagues. Initially, her professional input was not valued and she even faced similar difficulties as the characters in Hidden Figures. Later she gained the respect that she truly deserved.

Dr. Horton became the first African American to receive a PhD in material science with a concentration in physics from the University of Alabama. Her accolades are nothing short of "out of this world". She lectures worldwide on topics of advocacy, diversity, and equality in science. Some of these accomplishments include receiving the Trailblazer Award at a Black Engineer STEM Conference and numerous NASA related group achievement awards.

Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable.Janelle Monáe

Gabriel, a seventh grade student, found Dr. Horton's discussion about her current work on the Space Launch System, which is slated to head to Mars, to be particularly interesting. Dr. Horton serves as the Lead Metallic and Weld Engineer on this newest rocket, a job crucial to the completion of the Space Launch System which will allow for enhanced solar exploration.

Dr. Horton is seen as an inspiration and pioneer for many students, especially the girls and women who want to follow in her footsteps! As a student of color, I am particularly honored to have met Dr. Horton and grateful for her persistence as it relates to diversity and inclusion for all.