Hey everyone! I'm Emily Calandrelli, an MIT engineer who came to be an Emmy-nominated science TV host.

I did my undergrad at West Virginia University in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and got my Masters at MIT in AeroAstro and Tech and Policy. I'm the host and a producer of FOX's Xploration Outer Space and a correspondent on Bill Nye Saves the World. I recently created a children's science chapter book series – the Ada Lace Adventures.

I love finding creative ways to get people excited about science and tech - AMA!

Proof: https://twitter.com/TheSpaceGal/status/856578657573158912

EDIT: That's all for me, folks! Signing off now. Thanks for all your great questions. You all are the best. Till next time!

Comments: 175 • Responses: 69  • Date: 

wvugee18 karma

EmCal, With take your kids to work day coming up, what is your favorite science project/demo to show kids? Also, Go 'Eers!

emilycal17 karma

Go Moutaineers!! I'm a big fan of the standard Alka Seltzer + film canister rocket experiment. It's fun, cheap, visual, and you can talk about pressure, Newton's 3 laws of motion, and kids always love it!

LCDRtomdodge8 karma

How do you think we can actually shift public opinion to give more value to scientific rigor and reduce the overwhelming abundance of bunk? With cognitive biases controlling how we think and feel is it possible?

emilycal16 karma

Scientists and science communicators have to really dive into why people refuse scientific facts.

If someone doesn't believe in the efficacy/safety of vaccinations or the reality of climate change it can often feel good to call them stupid. But that solves nothing. It's often the parents who are the most educated who are the ones refusing vaccinations (or creating their own schedule) - so we have to look into why they are doing these things if we want to change the situation.

Basically, we need to be less snarky, realize that science doesn't come easy for everyone, and know that there are often intricate underlying reasons why certain groups of educated people are ignoring science.

mrhoops5156 karma

What can we do to get more girls interested in science?

emilycal17 karma

Start earlier. By the time women get to college, many STEM majors already feel like boy's clubs. For example, I was consistently 1 of 2 or 3 girls in my 50-person engineering classes in undergrad. Nobody likes feeling like an outsider, so it makes it harder to incentivize girls to join these types of majors.

Representation is so important - show younger girls role models in STEM who are women. There's something so powerful about seeing/reading about someone who looks a little bit like you that makes whatever they're doing more relatable. Give kids books with women who are strong/smart/interested in science. Introduce them to women on YouTube who are talking about STEM. Watch TV with them who have female characters/hosts who talk about science (...like me!)

Recommendations for amazing women in STEM YouTubers: The Physics Girl Dianna Cowern, PBS's Gross Science / Brain Craft, Simone Giertz, Emily Graslie

iwas99x6 karma

Ms. C, Is it safe to say you are a WVU Mountaineer fan?

emilycal18 karma

I accidentally cut myself cooking the other day and bled gold and blue.

estorm176 karma

Hi Emily!

I graduated from WVU' MAE program in 2014 and as a fellow West Virginian I've been a fan for a number of years. I'm really excited about the new show and all the outreach you do on social media. I was just wondering with all the cool places you've been to around the country and the world is there anything in particular you miss about West Virginia? Do you ever get many opportunities to make it back to the campus? Thanks!

emilycal11 karma

Thank you for the kind words! Going to WVU for engineering in undergrad was the best decision I could have made. The professors are so helpful and accommodating.

I miss the beauty of West Virginia. I miss pepperoni rolls. I miss my family (all of which still lives in Morgantown). I miss the friendly faces and the football games. I miss Black Bear. In general, I miss the community that is West Virginia - it's just the best.

I come home for a football game every year and come back to Morgantown to visit my family on Holidays! When I can, I go and speak at the schools in Morgantown as well as the University. I love giving back to West Virginia in any way I can because that state / that University has done so much for me.

yoloswaggins10006 karma

I am currently studying to become a mechanical engineering, what advice would you give me?

emilycal16 karma

Participate in extracurriculars that are engineering-related so you can get some hands-on/real world experiences. Also, do internships every single summer you're in college. It's so hard to be competitive in the world of engineering if you don't do both of these things. Plus, they're fun, you make new friends, and it leads to fun adventures / opportunities to travel and make $$!

CaptainMinifig5 karma

Hi. How did your "Zero G" flight compare to skydiving? Also, what's the one thing that your parents did to inspire you to become so awesome?

emilycal7 karma

Zero G was fun and skydiving was....not. The only reason I didn't like skydiving was because I felt like I was suffocating during free-fall. Once you launch the parachute it's pretty amazing (but still terrifying!). On a ZeroG plane you don't feel like you're falling - you feel like you're flying which is ah-mazing. Like, seriously an ecstatic sensation.

My parents always encouraged me to do my best, and helped me learn how to study when I was younger. My mom taught me to embrace my creative side. They loved me.

I'm also white from a middle-class family with parents who loved me - so there's a lot of privileged to acknowledge there for any success I've come into.

TouchdownRaiden4 karma

Hi Emily!

Any chance you can interview Peggy Whitson about her space orbit record? I think that can encourage more young girls to get into STEM careers!

Also, what is Bill Nye like behind the scenes?

emilycal5 karma

Peggy is definitely someone I'd love to interview for one of my shows - talk about a fearless explorer.

Bill Nye was exactly as I expected him to be in person. He's constantly teaching and learning - always telling stories about science. In the writer's room for BNSTW he would have these pocket experiments that he would do for us. We would have to ask him to stop teaching us sciencey things so that the team could move on with other meeting items.

astroaero4 karma

As a fellow AE working in the Space field, keep up the good fight for science awareness!

Do you see yourself ever returning to industry? If yes, what areas would you love to explore? You seem to be living the dream with your current path.

emilycal2 karma

I would be most excited to work in the small-sat telecommunication industry and work to bring internet to remote locations all over the world.

iwas99x3 karma

Ms.Calandrelli, how often are on Reddit and what are your favorite subreddits?

emilycal5 karma

I often find the most detailed and interesting technical conversations about SpaceX on reddit. Totally recommend that sub for learning the technical/economic justifications for rocket reusability + why they choose to land on solid ground versus the drone ship or vice versa.

Frajer3 karma

What do you think is the most interesting thing happening in science now?

emilycal7 karma

I'm particular to space exploration - and I'm particularly excited about 2 things. 1 - rocket reusability. What SpaceX and Blue Origin are doing is changing the rocket industry and forcing the larger incumbents to reevaluate their technology and innovate as well. 2 - the small satellite industry and it's implications for telecommunications. Less than half of the world has access to the internet right now (which is always so crazy to think about!!). But today there are companies that are going to launch large constellations of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (or smaller clusters of satellites is Geostationary Orbit) and bring internet to the rest of the planet. Imagine how much the world will change when everyone has access to the internet - a tool that can be used to educate, receive healthcare information, build businesses, etc. It's gunna be great and these companies are just on the horizon.

dagger_eyes3 karma

Hey Emily, I honestly was so captured by your segment with Bill almost immediately, Instant fan (3rd year MechE, myself) My question for you is, what was your first internship or job as a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineer and what are some of your favorite takeaways from it?

emilycal5 karma

My first internship I ever did what as Walt Disney World. I did the College Program for a semester, working in Downtown Disney (in 'Merchantainment') and then took Disney Imagineering classes. I loved learning about Imagineering and realizing that engineering could also be a creative endeavor. All too often STEM is portrayed as a 'right brain' field. But there are so many careers where you can be analytical as well as creative - like becoming a Disney Imagineer!

LightsOut57743 karma

I recently had to do a research paper for my public speaking class and stumbled across your TED Talk "Space Exploration is the Worst". Upon watching it, I was confused but later realized that it was actually really good!

Anyway, my question for you Emily: realistically speaking, what technological achievement/advancement do you want to see in your lifetime? Thank you for taking the time to do this AMA!!

emilycal3 karma

haha yea I have mixed feelings about that talk. It's weird, but I feel like I could have struck a better balance of sarcasm / realism.

Anyway! I'm excited for modes of travel that are significantly faster than what we have today (e.g. hyperloop). Personally, traveling has taught me so much about myself and others. I think once we make it easier/cheaper for people to see the country / the world people will become more empathetic of others.

SpacecadetShep3 karma

Emily ,

I'm really interested in becoming a public STEM/ Space advocate like you and Bill. Any advice for someone starting out?

emilycal7 karma

Find the other STEM/space influencers out there who are already creating great content (YouTube videos, articles, social posts, etc). Learn from them! And don't be afraid to put your own ideas out there. Stay informed on everything that's happening with SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Planet, NASA, ULA, etc - and post your thoughts on it. Apply for a NASA social. Practicing speaking and writing. Volunteer to talk at your local schools about STEM.

santaisntrealpoopoo3 karma

Should I start saving to fly in ZeroG?

emilycal6 karma

Flying weightless on the Vomit Comet was hands-down the coolest experience of my entire life. I have been able to ride it for free all 3 times, though, and I don't know that I would have put up the $6,000 it takes to ride it. That's so expensive for normal people!!! But if you often drop a few G's on other, non-life-changing experiences, then I'd definitely recommend it.

mkwierman2 karma

Matt from Virgin Orbit here. Congrats on the Emmy nom and the successful rollout of the Nye series. Keep up the good work!

How did you make the transition from direct engineering work to science communication?

How did you best make the Magic when you worked at WDW?

emilycal2 karma

Hi Matt! I had completed a Masters in Technology and Policy, which is a program that teaches students with a background in STEM how to communicate science/tech to policymakers. So I was already on a path of science communication, but more so for policymaking. Transitioning into TV-stuff was unique but I was able to leverage a lot of the stuff I learned in grad school.

And I gave away a bunch of free stuff when I worked at Disney (it was allowed! They called it a "Magical Moment.") I did it every chance I got. People love free stuff.

bmorebio2 karma

Hi Emily! I'm a phd-level scientist and I'm trying to get more into #scicomm, but I find myself quite crippled with imposter syndrome. I know I'm smart, but sometimes I just get scared that I'm going to say something wrong, offend someone, or just flat out be bad at getting my point across. Have you battled imposter syndrome, and if so, any tips for getting over it?

emilycal6 karma

I GET IT. When I first started doing sci-comm, I would get this paralyzing fear before I posted something that I had some incorrect information in it. And believe me - the STEM/nerd community loves nothing more than to point out when you are wrong about something (which is part of the reason that makes that community so great). So you have this responsibility to constantly fact-check and make sure you're disseminating accurate science.

That being said, the more I did it, the more comfortable I got. I was wrong less often but I was also more comfortable with admitting when I'd made a mistake. We're all constantly learning so you have to do the best you can and also be forgiving of yourself. My advice - put your thoughts out there, and be willing to embrace your mistakes. You'll only get better!

iwas99x2 karma

Ms. Calandrelli, how can teachers and schools get young girls more interesting in science and technology?

emilycal3 karma

Introduce them to female STEM role models! Representation is so important!

TheHamDr2 karma

Hello Emily, What is your favorite thing in the universe and why? Also if you were offered a seat on the first trip to Mars would you take it?

emilycal3 karma

I'm obviously pretty fond of Planet Earth, but I also really love the star Arcturus - it was the first star I was able to consistently locate when I was a kid looking at star maps.

And would I go to Mars? Nope nope nope nopetity nope. I would definitely go to space on a reliable spacecraft, but I would not risk my life to be the first person on Mars. I admire those who would - we need those explorers to push the boundaries of space exploration.

iwas99x2 karma

Ms. C, how many Astronauts have you met?

emilycal2 karma

Probably a couple dozen. I'm always surprised by the range of personalities - there's no "cookie cutter" version of an astronaut. They simply all love STEM in different ways.

iwas99x2 karma

Hello Ms. Calandrelli, how do you say/pronounce your name?

emilycal2 karma

Cal (as in California) - in - drelli

abcria2 karma

How difficult is aerospace engineering in university?

emilycal4 karma

It certainly wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done in my life. However, if you have the right professors, it can be really interesting to learn about. I'm often nostalgic of my undergrad MechAero days and the rigor of the classwork (yikes, that sounds so nerdy! I swear I had friends) There's just something about having a list of hard things to work through, getting them done, and knowing you've learned something difficult that is so stinkin rewarding.

LeHova2 karma

Hi! If Mars or any other planet does not have the conditions to contain human life, would it be possible that they contain other 'living' things?

emilycal3 karma

Definitely! They could host microbial life (the kind of life you can only see under a microscope), which would still blow our minds! If life exists on two planetary bodies, it means that there's a good chance that life isn't as rare as we thought.

Also - scientists are still finding new ways that life can exist. This is why you always hear scientists saying the phrase 'life as we know it.' We are basing everything we know on ourselves and the life around us. But the cosmos is constantly full of surprises.

autumnsroseyside2 karma

What is the absolute best thing Bill Nye has ever said to you?

emilycal7 karma

"Great shoes!"

boyohboyoboy2 karma

Who is you favorite female character in science fiction? Why?

emilycal2 karma

Does Hermione count? No? Well honestly none come to mind because most of the coolest characters I've loved in Sci-Fi have always been men (which is why I wasn't really into Sci-Fi growing up - I wanted to read about/watch someone I could relate to!). We need more women directors / writers, etc. Open to recommendations though!

JonCantReddit2 karma

Advice for aspiring science communicators?

emilycal1 karma

Work on your public speaking and writing skills. Try to get good at story telling and humor!

ElbowMich2 karma

Hi Emily, I really enjoy the new Bill Nye Series you take part in. I have a two part question. Do you think Amy Schumer steals her jokes? Also does your current SO compliment your field of work with their feild of work?

emilycal7 karma


My fiance did his bachelors at MIT in AeroAstro and Masters at Stanford in AeroAstro. He's now at google working on AI. It's fun to be with someone who knows a lot about what you do but is working in another area of tech - lots of fun, nerdy date night conversations.

ElbowMich1 karma

Awesome, thanks for the response. Although the Schumer question was not actually rhetorical.

emilycal8 karma

Unfortunately I can't say I'm an expert on stand-up comedian's material. I try to admit when I'm ignorant on a topic - this is one of them! :)

MScottLuckyDog2 karma

Emily, what were some of the major challenges you had to overcome to get where you are now? Keep up the great work.

emilycal3 karma

Gaining confidence to put yourself out there and opening yourself up to criticism. I'm not going to get it right every time (my jokes in my speeches may not land, I could get a calculation wrong in my writing, I could look awkward on TV) - and I had to learn how to accept this. Be kind to yourself and embrace (some) of the critics. They'll make you better.

MScottLuckyDog1 karma

Thank you for your time today, your confidence and kindness definitely shows through in your teaching. Your hard work and dedication is inspirational to so many. Maybe another AMA next year?

emilycal1 karma

Would love to!

ReubenZWeiner2 karma

Will coach Holgorsen’s offensive line be up to task this year?

emilycal3 karma

They better be! * pretending to know something about football *

iwas99x1 karma

Ask someone on r/cfb about Mountaineers football and they will kindly give you a brief summary of info.

emilycal1 karma

My mom works for the football office, I also worked there all through high school, and I've been to nearly every Mountaineer Bowl Game since I've been alive - I have no excuse haha :)

iwas99x1 karma

I guess you know all the words to Country Roads.

emilycal1 karma

I couldn't call myself a West Virginian if I didn't!

NikeAces1 karma

How do you feel about toe socks?

emilycal2 karma

very negatively

RocketMan19671 karma

What are your thoughts about the President's proposed budget calling for the elimination of the NASA Education Office?

emilycal2 karma

I think that will hurt low and middle-income families the most. The best opportunities are brought to the name brand schools, whereas many state schools have to get a bit more creative in finding opportunities for their students. One great way students at state schools find opportunities is through the NASA Space Grant Office (funded by the NASA Ed Office). It was one of the ways I found nationally competitive opportunities and worked my way up to going to MIT.

I answered this question in more detail here.

fbgal1 karma

Emily: Is Bill Nye as cool in person as he is on TV - and how much time on the new Netflix series will be devoted to the subject of climate change?

emilycal2 karma

It's on Netflix now! Check it out! The first episode is dedicated to climate change.

And yes, Bill Nye is just as cool in person (probably cooler - because he is, in fact, real!)

jomck1 karma

Hi Emily! I'm a sophomore in college majoring in biology, and I'm really passionate about space exploration, the search for extraterrestrial life, and looking at how terrestrial life could be sustained off of Earth. I want to apply my passions and skills to pursuing a career in astrobiology, but I feel like most current opportunities and resources for people my age are more geared towards engineers, computer scientists, etc. What advice would you give to someone like me?

emilycal1 karma

In all of my NASA internships there were chemistry and biology majors! I would recommend looking to internships at NASA Ames or JPL - tons of great biology / astrobiology work going on there!

iwas99x1 karma

Ms. C, when will NASA have Its own launch and re-entry vehicle to go into space so American Astronauts don't have to hitch rides with the Russians? Is it kinda like asking a person you aren't friendly with to constantly take you to work and Paying them instead of buying a car?

emilycal1 karma

haha exactly. I'm sure NASA would love to have SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 ready tomorrow. No one is happy about paying the Russians Millions$$ for bringing our astronauts to space. I suspect sometime next year they'll be ready.

cap_us1 karma

Hello Emily!

Right now i'm an undergraduate student in Austin, TX working towards a degree in Physics with a focus in Astronomy (possibly changing that to a minor or possible double major).

My plan is to apply for the Astronaut Candidate Program at NASA. For someone like me interested in a goal such as that, what advice could you give me about obtaining that goal?

emilycal2 karma

That's amazing! Keep up the good work!

Honestly, I'm not sure anyone could give good advice for getting into the Astronaut program. Less than 600 people have ever been to space and so there's certainly an element of being at the right place at the right time as well as a little luck.

In general though, I've noticed that the astronauts I have met have excelled in their specific fields and work well with others. I think getting a PhD is probably helpful (although not required certainly) and becoming a test pilot is probably a good bet. NASA is moving into an era where they'll be sending astronauts into space on new spacecraft (Crew Dragon, CST-100, Orion) and - just like in the early Apollo days - they'll be looking for a lot of test pilots.

cap_us1 karma

Thanks for the reply! I was actually in Air Force ROTC, so I have learned some valuable leadership skills as well as being able to work well with others. Unfortunately I dropped out of the program. Becoming a test pilot might be out the question at this point haha!

I do certainly plan to get my masters at the very least and hopefully my PhD in the future. Speaking of excelling in fields, do you have any knowledge of potential internships on the physics/astronomy field? If so, I'd love to check em' out!

Thanks again!

emilycal1 karma

Fermilab is a really incredible place! I've had Physics friends really enjoy their internships there.

io_error141 karma

Fellow MIT'er! Most engineers I know didn't become TV hosts :) What inspired you to go down this cool, less traditional, path?

PS What course were you?

emilycal1 karma

Course 16 and TPP!

Honestly I got a call from a production studio that was like "want to be a TV host?" and I was like "yup." I figured, if the show got cancelled in the first year, I had 4 engineering/science degrees to fall back on! My show on FOX, Xploration Outer Space, has now been picked up through season 7!

cretaceous-park1 karma

Hey Emily, I'm currently a computational physics undergrad. I have two questions. What is key to a successful career in STEM and scicomm? Also how do I watch Xploration Outer Space if we don't have Hulu in my European country?

emilycal2 karma

Well I'm not exactly sure how to watch XOS in other countries but I know it's on Amazon Prime, Roku, YouTube TV, and Yahoo streaming if that helps!

Key to success in Sci Com? Storytelling and humor - still trying to get good at both.

PrBoRa1 karma

Hello Emily. I live outside of the USA and I was wondering how I can watch Xploration Outer Space? It doesn't air on any channel on TV(at least not the ones that are available to me) and I also can't find it anywhere on the internet.

emilycal1 karma

Check Amazon Prime, Roku, YouTubeTV, Yahoo!

iwas99x1 karma

Ms, what are your favorite pizza toppings?

emilycal2 karma

Sausage, pepperoni, peppers, onions, mushrooms. Napoleon style pizza preferred.

Roland2611 karma

Would you make a youtube vlog or other weekly videos on youtube in the future?

emilycal3 karma

I've always wanted to, but have been too chicken to put anything out there...at this point. Maybe in the future when I have more free time. I think it's an incredible platform and more personal than the stuff I currently do.

Ikkster1 karma

What inspired you to choose AeroAstro?

emilycal3 karma

I really loved Math in high school and when I was a HS senior I googled what the top-earning majors were after graduation. Across the board, engineers made the most money so I chose Engineering (I was a very practical 17-year-old). And then, when I got to college, NASA had the coolest free opportunities for students pursuing a career in the space industry (think - Vomit Comet, paid internships, opportunities to travel for conferences, etc) so I decided to pursue Aerospace Engineering.

jimcrowell1 karma

Hi, Emily! How did you kickstart your career as a science communicator and TV host? I'm working on my PhD in extreme environment robotics right now, but I went to nationals in NASA's FameLab last year and love science communication.

emilycal1 karma

I studied engineering and science for 8 years and throughout my time in undergrad/grad school I loved doing outreach. I spoke to dozens of schools and gave presentations in my local community about why I believed NASA was worth our tax dollars. When I was graduating from MIT, I received an email from an Emmy-winning production studio that was like "Hey, do you want to be the host of an Outer Space TV show on FOX." and I was like "uhhh yes. that sounds awesome."

Honestly it was kind of a right time - right place thing. My other friends who have come into this business started by creating amazing STEM videos on YouTube. I think that might be the more direct route. writing articles about science (whether it be a blog or for a larger publication) is also a really effective way to become a science communicator.

iwas99x1 karma

Ms. C, what kind of telescope do you have at home?

emilycal1 karma

Unfortunately none. I live in the middle of the city in SF so I'm not sure how useful it would be unless I traveled away from all the light pollution. Too many excuses - I should have one! However, I've absolutely loved visiting all of the telescopes up at Lick Observatory. Highly recommend checking it out.

iwas99x1 karma

Ms. C, what are some cool recent invention from the past 5 years that are a result of NASA and experiments in space?

emilycal1 karma

I'm really excited about the 3-D printing industry in Space. Made-In-Space is doing some great work in the ISS, 3d printing tools for astronauts as well as doing some work commercially. For example, they've started printing optical fiber on the ISS, which has benefits because without gravity, you can make "purer" optical fiber (useful for fiber-based internet like FiOS or Google Fiber).

iwas99x1 karma

Ms. C, do you play videogames? If so which ones?

emilycal1 karma

I LOVE super spash bros. I also loved Pokemon Snap and Paper Mario when I was little. I've been playing Mario Run and was unhealthily obsessed with Pokemon Go for a little while

iwas99x1 karma

Ms. C, who are you Science role models and heroes both dead and living?

emilycal2 karma

I look up to people who are excellent story-tellers and know their science. Obvi Sagan, Nye, Tyson fall into that category, but I also look up to peers who are killin it on YouTube (like Physics Girl, Veritasium, VSauce, etc)

iwas99x1 karma

Ms. C, have you invented anything or plan to in the future?

emilycal1 karma

When I was 7 I used construction paper and a hanger to invent a "hairspray blocker". My mom would always put my hair in a pony tail and hair spray the top, getting hair spray in my eyes. So I bent a hanger, taped some construction paper around it and used it every morning to shield my eyes. Not sure I've made anymore more useful since then. ;)

iwas99x1 karma

Ms. C, do you have any pets?

emilycal1 karma

When I was little I had hermit crabs, gold fish, a parrot, a dog, two turtles and a cat! I love animals. Today I travel too much to keep another animal, other than myself, alive. One day I'll build up my zoo once more!

damiansxo1 karma

Hello Ms. Calandrelli,

I think the show "Bill Nye saves the world" is a great way to educate kids and teenagers, or people in general, about the very important topics that were mentioned.

How was it for you working on that?

emilycal3 karma

I literally cried when I got the call that I was involved. I think this type of show can have so much impact and I feel a huge responsibility being involved. Currently crossing my fingers for a Season 2 so we can make the shows even better than the 1st season!

Azurepriest1 karma

I am currently studying nano engineering in Canada I would love to go to MIT and am fairly certain I would get in. But the tuition is crazy how did you over come that?

emilycal1 karma

I went to MIT for grad school. If you're in a science major - apply to fellowships (in the US I applied to NSF, DOD, and DOE fellowships) - I received two of them and went to grad school for free. If you're a STEM student you shouldn't be paying for grad school - there are plenty of fellowships to apply for or, if you don't get any of those, plenty of opportunities to be a Research Assistant or TA and get school paid for!

scalebirds1 karma

What was it like visiting TeamIndus in Bangalore for the Bill Nye show? What do you think of the Lunar X Prize?

emilycal2 karma

It was INCREDIBLE. The average age of an employee there was ~27 and they had so many women working for them. It was inspiring. I'm excited to see how they do on the Google Lunar XPrize. My Masters at MIT was on how Prizes can incentivize innovation in an effective way so I'm particularly fond of the XPrize foundation and everything they're doing.

C2point01 karma

Hi Emily!!

Fellow Lady Mountaineer here! Two questions:

  1. What was your favorite thing about the University?
  2. How would you recommend someone who doesn't have a formal background in STEM (my degree is in Econ) to get involved and stay "STEM-literate?"

Loved your TED Talks!

emilycal2 karma

Go Eers!

1 - The professors and staff were so incredibly helpful. I owe so much to them. 2 - Read articles from reputable sources about STEM topics like climate change, vaccinations, GMOs! There are some really great science and tech journalists out there who can break down sciencey topics into digestible, easy-to-read articles. I'd recommend following people like Loren Grush, Mika McKinnon, and Emily Lakdawala (find them on Twitter)! Basically try to stay informed on what's happening in the news that's related to STEM. The more you read, the more you'll come across familiar topics and it won't seem as complex/confusing.

TheHamDr1 karma

I am just starting my degree in engineering but due to my current job(Navy) I am taking online classes and don't have opportunities to take internships, I am currently 27 with a background in electronics. What advice do you have for getting into engineering career fields for people starting out at an older age without the experience of internships in that field?

emilycal1 karma

I would say your Navy experience is certainly teaching you unique and amazing things as well! Leverage that experience on resumes to jobs / scholarships etc. Oh, and definitely apply for scholarships!! You can do this in your free time. I am particularly fond of the Goldwater Scholarship and the Truman Scholarship.

Spaced___Out1 karma

Hey, Emily! Do you ever travel to give talks at Universities? You are a great role model and a perfect example of someone that is breaking the STEM stereotype.

emilycal1 karma

I do, all the time! Love talking to students of all ages about my experiences in STEM!

n8d0gg71 karma

Hey SpaceGal!

From my understanding, current US laws prohibit​ non-US citizens from working at SpaceX as any work on rocket science & engineering is considered military technology. How frustrating is it knowing some of the brightest minds in the world cannot contribute to the success of space exploration and what avenues do we have for collaborative efforts to take place among nations?

emilycal2 karma

It is SO INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING. ahem - pulls self together...

I've worked along side so many brilliant researchers from different countries and it is near-impossible for them to get jobs in the space industry due to ITAR regulations. We educate these great people in our top schools, like MIT, and then refuse to let them innovate for us. What a waste of talent! Most friends have to either go to another type of non-space related industry, work in academia, or use everything they've learned in the United States and bring that knowledge to another country.

I think revising ITAR regulations (e.g. being more selective on which technologies fall under ITAR) can do wonders to help alleviate this problem.

twinmanna1 karma

Hi Emily! I am currently a full-time biomedical engineering student and young mother to a beautiful toddler, and I was wondering if you can give me advice about being involved and balancing a busy schedule. You emphasized the importance of summer internships, and I am not sure those can be as accessible to me since I am a mother. I currently work in a great lab on campus that researches spider silk proteins. Would a local job have the same impact on my resumé as an internship would? I would love to hear your thoughts. :) Thank you!

emilycal2 karma

I absolutely believe that having a local job would be just as impactful and impressive on a resume. Kudos to you for making it all work, that can't be easy.

I mostly suggest traveling for internships because I think it's fun to travel - and doing an internship in a different state (or country!) is a great way to travel for free.

Keep up the great work, the world needs scientists/engineers like you :)

twinmanna2 karma

Thank you so much for your reply! :) You made my day. I admire you so much.

"Easy" is certainly not a word I ever use to describe my experience as a mother and an engineering student, but it is absolutely the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I love facing challenges and and realizing that I have the ability to accomplish them. My confidence has grown a lot since I began pursuing this career, and I aim to give it everything thing I have. I am very excited.

I am relieved to hear that traveling for an internship is not required to build a strong resume. I would love to travel in my career, but perhaps it would be easier once my baby is older and more autonomous.

What would you say are key elements to network and become more visible to employers? (Personality traits, leadership training, technical ability, etc.)

You are absolutely inspiring. Thanks again. <3

emilycal2 karma

Hands on experience (through research, internships, or engineering clubs) and good grades are probably the most important. Receiving nationally competitive scholarships / awards is also helpful. Anything that shows initiative, independence in research, ability to lead, hands on knowledge is going to be helpful!

twinmanna1 karma

Thanks! What are some good nationally competitive scholarships/awards/internships that I should be aware of and working toward?

emilycal2 karma

My show is hosting one national contest right now called the #StudentAstronaut compeition. See the video announcement here.

Also the Goldwater Scholarship, Truman Scholarship

Fellowships: look into NSF, NDSEG, and the DOE for great research fellowships

NASA also has a number of scholarships!

If you are involved in engineering clubs (like robotics for example) there are often national competitions!

WiseSeaweed1 karma

Hi Emily! You're an absolute inspiration to me! I am starting college in the fall and will major in aerospace engineering. Do you think it would be a good idea to also double in mechanical engineering? Has that benefitted you? Also, I love the idea of science communication and how you are doing it. Do you think minoring in English or Film/Media Studies would help me with this? I really hope I can go to MIT for grad school like you did! Thank you so much! :)

emilycal2 karma

Well that's sweet! Thank you :)

Yes, I would 100% recommend doing the double major. It will only take you an additional semester or 1 year to finish it and it will greatly open your career options when your done. Aerospace is great but it can also put you in a bit of a niche field. Mechanical is so general and can apply to many types of jobs.

I definitely think minoring in Film/Media (or possibly Journalism) would be incredibly helpful! Combining creative strategies with science is such a wonderful skill set to hone.

The best advice is to practice practice practice. Write as much as you can, speak as much as you can. Put 10,000 hours into something and you'll become an expert. Fail fast, fail often.

jjlew0801 karma

Hey Emily, big fan of yours and what you do to promote STEM.

what would you say to a parent who refuses to vaccine their kids?

emilycal4 karma

I would want to understand their concerns. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids don't do it because they hate their kids (duh!). It often takes a bit of empathy to help people understand scientific evidence.

SevsGirl1 karma

Hi Emily, what do you think it'll take before there is a recognizable mainstream female science communicator that is as popular as Neil deGrasse or Bill Nye?

emilycal8 karma

We need more executive producers like mine (Steve Rotfeld) to put women (and minorities) in front of the camera. The TV/film industry is predominately white and male. It often feels like a boy's club which can be a problem in an industry which is very much a Who-you-know type of industry. We need to recognize that diversity is not only nice, it's smart for your bottom line. After all, half the humans are women - we watch TV too! :)

_stuntnuts_1 karma

Hi Emily,

Soon-to-be parent of a little girl here and am eager to check out your Ada Lace childrens book series. Are there other critical-thinking, or science-based childrens' authors that inspired you and you would recommend?

How many books do you have planned?

Thanks and keep doing what you do! I enjoy Xploration Outer Space a lot!

emilycal2 karma

Hi there!

We have 5 books in the initial series - hopefully more if they do well!! I'm inspired by books like Rosie Revere Engineer and The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home. Lovely stories that incorporate science and tech in a fun, visual way.

shwanstopable1 karma

What is the best Mars movie of all time, and why do you think it's Total Recall (The Arnold version!)??

emilycal2 karma

I'm fond of The Martian - I was able to interview Andy Weir for my show and so now that has to be my favorite. Andy Weir is the kindest nerd you'll ever meet.

samanthatartas1 karma

Hey, Emily! Thanks so much for doing this AMA. How would you advise non-STEM majors to get involved in STEM after they've begun their careers? I'm a comms professional with a BA in Political Science/International Relations and I'd like to make the jump into tech.

I'm currently doing the Web Development career scholarship with Kode with Klossy/Flatiron School. Do you have any other advice? I was considering an M.S. in Computer Science, but I'm not completely sure. I'm hoping that the experience with Kode with Klossy and an MS in CS will help me transition into a larger project manager role/developing AI/machine learning for a company.

emilycal1 karma

Hey! I think it's wonderful that you're looking into more tech-related options. You'll probably have a really great perspective on the industry with your background in a non-tech field as well.

I'm not a programmer myself (I've used programming in school and for a few projects, but I know very little comparatively), so take my advice with a grain of salt. From what I know the Kode w/ Klossy camp is great for younger students (~High School age). If you want to get a stronger hold on CS to land a job in the industry I would recommend looking into programming boot camps - some great ones in NYC for example. I hear they are competitive and very challenging - but if you get in and complete the course successfully, you can land a great job in CS w/o a formal degree in it.

I would also recommend free online courses - like MIT's EdX courses. I believe CS50 is the really popular one people have taken online.