Published: Feb. 22, 2021 By

Erica McNamee
Erica McNamee

Erica McNamee, a junior in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, is among 44 undergraduates selected for the Brooke Owens Fellowship Class of 2021.

Brooke Owens Fellows receive space and aviation internship opportunities, mentorship from executive-level industry professionals in aerospace and ongoing professional networking opportunities, including an invitation to the annual Brooke Owens Summit. The program is open to women and gender minority undergraduates.

McNamee will intern with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center this May. She will work with the news and communications center to produce news pieces and promotional content for NASA.

“I am hoping to gain experience in news and media during this internship so I can better prepare myself for a career in science journalism for the future,” McNamee said.

During her sophomore year, McNamee took the Writing on Science and Society course, which ultimately led her to apply to the fellowship program.

“For many of the assignments, I chose to write about topics that related to the space industry, such as Project Orion and the journey to Mars,” she said. “We were often grouped with other students who had similar interests, and I was fortunate enough to meet a former Brooke Owens Fellow, who informed me of the fellowship.”

The opportunities for women and gender minorities provided by the fellowship convinced her to apply.

“This is an important subject for me because I am passionate about inspiring future female scientists to pursue their dreams in any career that they find interesting,” McNamee said. “The way that I believe young females can be inspired to become scientists is by seeing, reading and learning about science. This extends not just to the youth, but to everyone who is willing and interested to learn about science.”

McNamee credits her education as a chemical engineering student with her ability to communicate about science and engineering to a broader audience.

“It is important to have a deep understanding of science topics to be able to write about them,” she said. “With the broad number of fields that chemical engineers can go into—including renewable energy and the space industry, which are the fields I am most interested in—I am sure that what I have learned and will learn will help me achieve my goal of expanding accessibility to science in the aerospace industry and beyond.”

McNamee acknowledged the support and encouragement of Maureen McNamara for telling her about the fellowship, the founders and staff of the fellowship itself, and her friends and family—particularly her parents and sister—for their love and support throughout her academic career.

McNamee’s application was supported by letters of recommendation from Assistant Professor Matthew Dockendorf and Senior Instructor Eric Burger.

The Brooke Owens Fellowship was founded in 2016 to honor pilot and industry pioneer D. Brooke Owens, who passed away at 35 after a battle with cancer.