“Mother of Hubble” Speaks About Women in Science, Life in Space

Colleen Locke | November 13, 2017
Nancy Grace Roman, the

Nancy Grace Roman, the "Mother of Hubble," delivered a lecture at UMass Boston on November 8.
Image by: Colleen Locke

Nancy Grace Roman Part of Lego’s Women of NASA Set

Nancy Grace Roman, the astronomer known as the “Mother of Hubble” and the first woman to hold an executive position at NASA, visited campus last week to talk about everything from large moons and dwarf planets to Legos and advocating for women in science.

UMass Boston’s Center of Science and Mathematics in Context (COSMIC), College of Education and Human Development, and College of Science and Mathematics co-sponsored the November 8 talk.

Roman, 92, earned her nickname for her role in planning for the Hubble Space telescope, which has been taking high-resolution images of space since 1990. Roman was also NASA’s first chief of astronomy. An astronomer, professor, and researcher, she said her school counselors discouraged her from getting into science, and once in the field, she had to speak up about not getting paid the same as her male colleagues.

“I complained about it from time to time and one time the answer was, ‘We don’t discriminate against women. We can just get them for less,’” Roman told a crowd of UMass Boston students, faculty, and seventh and eighth graders from the Astronomy Club at the neighboring John W. McCormack Middle School.

After giving a presentation on large moons and dwarf planets, Roman took questions from the crowd. She said she does think that scientists will find evidence of life in outer space someday, although she thinks when we find life, we won’t recognize it as life. And she’s wary of sending a human to Mars.

“On one hand, you can learn more things that you’re not going to learn from robotics and you have more flexibility. On the other hand, I don’t think we should send a human to Mars until we’re absolutely sure that there’s no life there, because once we send a human, there will be life. We can sterilize our spacecraft, but you can’t sterilize a human,” Roman explained.

Roman also talked about the new Lego minifigure that’s been created in her honor – part of a “Women of NASA” set being released in time for the holidays.

“I hope it inspires young girls to get into science,” Roman said.

About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 17,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit www.umb.edu.

Tags: cehd , cosmic , csm , education , science , space

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