This is how the human heart adapts to space
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Two men are standing looking at each other in front of what appears to be a map.

By Ashley Strickland

When astronaut Scott Kelly spent nearly a year in space, his heart shrank despite the fact that he worked out six days a week over his 340-day stay, according to a new study.

Surprisingly, researchers observed the same change in Benoît Lecomte after he completed his 159-day swim across the Pacific Ocean in 2018.
The findings suggest that long-term weightlessness alters the structure of the heart, causing shrinkage and atrophy, and low-intensity exercise is not enough to keep that from happening. The study published Monday in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
Photo : CNN
The gravity we experience on Earth is what helps the heart to maintain both its size and function as it keeps blood pumping through our veins. Even something as simple as standing up and walking around helps pull blood down into our legs.
When the element of gravity is replaced with weightlessness, the heart shrinks in response.
Kelly lived in the absence of gravity aboard the International Space Station from March 27, 2015, to March 1, 2016. He worked out on a stationary bike and treadmill and incorporated resistance activities into his routine six days a week for two hours each day.
Lecomte swam from June 5 to November 11, 2018, covering 1,753 miles and averaging about six hours a day swimming. That sustained activity may sound extreme, but each day of swimming was considered to be low-intensity activity.
Even though Lecomte was on Earth, he was spending hours a day in the water, which offsets the effects of gravity. Long-distance swimmers use the prone technique, a horizontal facedown position, for these endurance swims.
Researchers expected that the activities performed by both men would keep their hearts from experiencing any shrinkage or weakening. Data collected from tests of their hearts before, during and after these extreme events showed otherwise.
Kelly and Lecomte both experienced a loss of mass and initial drop in diameter in the left ventricles of the heart during their experiences.
Both long-duration spaceflight and prolonged water immersion led to a very specific adaptation of the heart, said senior study author Dr. Benjamin Levine, a professor of internal medicine/cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
While the authors point out that they only studied two men who both performed extraordinary things, further study is needed to understand how the human body reacts in extreme situations.
Read the full article at CNN.
It’s time to take reproduction in space seriously
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A stork in an astronaut helmet

By Miriam Kramer, Axios

Before humans can settle off-Earth, scientists need to figure out how — or even whether — people can reproduce in space.

Why it matters: Powerful figures in the space industry like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have dreams of a future where millions of people live in space, which would naturally require a self-sustaining population of humans somewhere other than Earth.

  • “It has been [more than] 20 years since the last systematic experiments on vertebrate reproduction and development in spaceflight,” Gary Strangman, the scientific lead at the Translational Research Institute for Space Health, told me.
  • “Yet we are now actively planning missions and building rockets to reach the Moon and Mars. Reproduction will almost certainly be relevant to a three-year mission to Mars. And we don’t want to discover serious adverse effects by accident.”What’s happening: Scientists have sent a number of experiments to the International Space Station in recent years to try to answer various questions about what it might take for mammals, and eventually humans, to reproduce in space.
  • A study published in June found freeze-dried sperm from mice sent to the ISS weren’t adversely impacted by the environment in low-Earth orbit, producing healthy pups back on Earth after its return.
  • An earlier Russian experiment sent male and female rats to orbit, allowing them to breed. Two of the female rats became pregnant, but neither resulted in a live birth.

Yes, but: More in-depth studies are needed in order to figure out just what it would take for humans and other species to have babies off-Earth, and some scientists say there hasn’t been enough attention paid to funding and performing these types of studies.

  • “There’s always been a bigger problem to solve,” Virginia Wotring, a professor at the International Space University, told me. The focus instead has been on the technology needed to get to orbit, life support and funding for deep space efforts.
  • “The risks of spaceflight are (reasonably) well-understood, but the consequences of those risks on conception, pregnancy, birth and development are barely understood at all — in any species, but particularly in mammals, and even more so in humans,” Strangman said via email.
  • Women have been historically underrepresented among astronauts, making it harder to study how important parts of reproduction like birth control, menstruation and ovulation may work.

The big question: What are the major factors that could limit how and whether humans can have healthy babies in space?

  • Mouse sperm and embryos haven’t been adversely impacted by the radiation environment on the ISS, but as humans push to farther-afield destinations like Mars, that could change as the radiation environment gets worse.
  • Gravity may also be important in physically arranging the cells in an embryo. Researchers are now analyzing an experiment on the space station where astronauts cultured frozen mouse embryos to see if they needed gravity to develop. (The results of that research haven’t yet been made available.)
  • But it could be even more simple: Mammals are sensitive to stress, making it difficult to mate even on the ground, Teruhiko Wakayama, a researcher focusing on reproduction in space, told me.
  • The ethical issues surrounding studies of human reproduction also limit experiments in space, according to Strangman.

What’s next: A number of studies being proposed in the coming years could help answer those outstanding questions around reproduction in space.

Click here to read the full article on Axios.

First Latina to go to space announces bilingual STEAM board book series
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Dr Ellen ochoa smiling and posing in front of a gray background for the camera. She is wearing a blue button up. Ochoa is writing a STEAM board book series

By The Downey Patriot

Lil’ Libros Publishing has acquired world rights to a bilingual five-board book STEAM series, Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World, researched and written by Dr. Ellen Ochoa, American engineer who became the first Latina woman to go to space.

Inspired by her experiences as a NASA astronaut, Dr. Ochoa’s books will celebrate the joy of scientific curiosity, the fundamentals of STEAM topics, and the American Latino experience for the youngest of readers.

“I wish I had known when I was little that science [or STEAM] is all about curiosity and creativity,” said Dr. Ochoa. “Those skills come naturally to young kids, and I hope this series engages kids and parents alike, in both English and Spanish, about STEAM concepts and excites them about exploring the world they inhabit.”

“We are excited to work alongside Dr. Ochoa to help create an environment where our littlest readers are introduced to STEAM concepts confidently and in two languages,” said Patty Rodriguez, publisher at Lil’ Libros. “Becoming a scientist is no longer just a dream for our children, it is a possibility and Dr. Ellen Ochoa is an example of that.”

“It is an honor to welcome Dr. Ellen Ochoa to the Lil’ Libros family. Bringing bilingual STEAM topics to children will open a world of possibilities,” added Ariana Stein, Lil’ Libros co-founder. “We are confident that Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World will inspire curiosity and leave a lasting impact on children.”

Publication for the first book, Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World: We Are All Scientists, is set for August 30, 2022.

Lil’ Libros is a bilingual children’s book publisher based out of Los Angeles. In a world lacking bilingual books for children, two best friends-turned-mothers – Patty Rodriguez, of Downey, and Ariana Stein – began their mission to celebrate the duality of the American Latino experience through picture board books and now hardcovers.

Click here to read the full article on The Downey Patriot.

NASA investigates ‘unusual’ carbon signature on Mars
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By , C|NET

When the words “intriguing,” “Mars” and “ancient life” show up in the same NASA statement, my ears perk up. On Sunday, NASA talked up a new study looking at “unusual carbon signals” measured by the Curiosity rover in the red planet’s Gale Crater.

Curiosity hasn’t found proof of ancient microbial life on Mars, but scientists aren’t ruling it out as one possible explanation for the rover’s findings. Powdered rock samples studied by the rover show the kind of carbon signatures that are connected to biological life on Earth. But Mars may be telling a very different story.

The study is set to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Carbon is a key element in life on our own planet, so it’s important to study how it appears on Mars. “For instance, living creatures on Earth use the smaller, lighter carbon 12 atom to metabolize food or for photosynthesis versus the heavier carbon 13 atom,” NASA said. “Thus, significantly more carbon 12 than carbon 13 in ancient rocks, along with other evidence, suggests to scientists they’re looking at signatures of life-related chemistry.”

Curiosity heated up rock samples in an onboard lab and used its Tunable Laser

Spectrometer instrument to measure the gases released by the samples. Some of the rock samples had “surprisingly large amounts of carbon 12” compared with what has been found in the atmosphere of Mars and in Martian meteorites.

According to a statement from Penn State, the researchers proposed several explanations: “a cosmic dust cloud, ultraviolet radiation breaking down carbon dioxide, or ultraviolet degradation of biologically created methane.”

The cloud idea connects back to an occurrence when the solar system passed through a galactic dust cloud hundreds of millions of years ago, which could have left carbon-rich deposits on Mars. The second idea suggests ultraviolet light could have interacted with carbon dioxide gas in the Martian atmosphere and left molecules with the distinctive carbon signature on the surface.

A biological origin idea could have involved bacteria releasing methane into the atmosphere that was then converted into molecules that settled back down on Mars, leaving behind the carbon signature Curiosity found.

Click here to read the full article on C|NET.

NASA Invites Media to Launch of New Mega-Moon Rocket and Spacecraft
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Mega Moon Mission. An aerial view of Launch Complex 39B with Exploration Ground Systems’ mobile launcher for the Artemis 1 mission on the pad. The mobile launcher, atop crawler-transporter 2, made its final solo trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building on June 27, 2019, and arrived on the surface of pad B on June 28, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mobile launcher will remain at the pad over the summer, undergoing final testing and checkouts. Its next roll to the pad will be with the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft in preparation for the launch of Artemis 1.

By NASA

Media accreditation is now open for launch and prelaunch activities related to NASA’s Artemis I mission, the first mission in exploration systems built for crew that will travel around the Moon since Apollo. Approximately a week’s worth of events will lead up to the launch of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, targeted for no earlier than March 2022 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The uncrewed Artemis I mission will launch from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39B and is the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Artemis deep space exploration systems. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, the mission will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate NASA’s commitment and capability to establish a long-term presence at the Moon and beyond.

NASA will set an official target launch date after a successful wet dress rehearsal test – one of the final tests before launch involving fuel loaded into the rocket – currently planned for late February.

U.S. media must apply by 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, and international media without U.S. citizenship must apply by 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31. A copy of NASA’s media accreditation policy is online.

The agency continues to monitor developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, and Kennedy will grant access to only a limited number of media to protect the health and safety of media and employees. Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions at Kennedy, international media coming from overseas must follow quarantine requirements.

NASA will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer and will immediately communicate any updates that may affect media access for this launch.

Media who would like to bring large vehicles (satellite trucks, microwave trucks, etc.) or any manner of infrastructure (scaffolding, stages, etc.) must notify the Kennedy media team by filling out a forthcoming survey. The survey will be distributed to media once the accreditation window for this launch has closed.

All parties requesting to bring stages, scaffolding, or raised platforms will be required to submit plans, including access limitations/controls, height/width/length, configuration, capacity, and load ratings of the elevated structure and any training, inspection, or other pertinent requirements.

Click here to read the full article on NASA.

Discussing Your Strengths in a Job Interview
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interviewees on Zoom call discussing their resumes

When you’re interviewing for a job, there’s a strong chance that a recruiter or potential boss will ask what you believe are your strengths. This is an easy question to answer. Interviewers will certainly want to know that your perceived strengths line up with the position you’re seeking, but they are also interested in whether you’re self-aware and confident. With a little practice, you can answer that question without appearing either arrogant or overly humble. Here’s how.

Show Your Strengths: STAR Method in Action

Talking about your strengths is an opportunity to show why you’d be a great fit for the job and how your skills align with the company or team. The key is to think about what strengths you have that match one or more of the aspects of the job description. A strength can be either a technical skill or a soft skill, such as teamwork or communication.

Once you’ve decided which of your strengths you want to feature, it’s time to identify real life examples where you’ve demonstrated that strength. The best way to approach behavioral questions is to use the STAR method. This helps you break down a scenario and explain how you successfully navigated it.

Situation: Offer some background on the task or challenge that you’ll be addressing.

Task: Define what your role and responsibilities were for the particular situation.

Action: Explain what steps you took or ideas you offered to help solve the problem or tackle that challenge.

Result: Share how the situation was resolved, highlighting how your actions helped reach that conclusion.

Here’s an example:

If you interview for a position that requires you to lead or even be part of a team, you might choose to say one of your strengths is leadership.

Situation: I volunteer as a gardener at a local park and enjoy working with new volunteers.

Task: The park identified a need to educate new volunteers about native plants.

Action: I organized a training session to teach my team members about native plants.

Result: The new volunteers found it so useful that the training is now part of the new volunteer onboarding process.

In this scenario, an interviewer might recognize your ability to take initiative to address needs and lead a new volunteer training. While this answer may seem simple, it demonstrates your strength in both initiative and leadership, which are valuable traits to all employers.

If you find it is hard to identify your strengths, consider your ability to:

  • Collaborate
  • Solve problems
  • Take direction and focus on tasks
  • Use technology
  • Lead or mentor

Rehearsing your answers can also help you feel prepared when heading into your next interview. Common interview questions to consider include:

  • “Why do you want this job?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you had to learn something quickly but knew nothing about it before.”
  • “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.”
  • “Tell me about a goal you set and how you achieved it.”
  • “What is one of your weaknesses?”

Reflect on your skills and accomplishments. Think about why they qualify you to succeed in the job you’re applying for. Think about the strengths of your professional role models and whether you have some of those same qualities. Consider a time when a teammate shared something they admired about you. Or think back to any times you received recognition for your work and what skills allowed you to shine.

Source: Ticket to Work

What STEM Careers are in High Demand?
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What STEM Careers are in High Demand

Have you ever wondered what the outlook might be for your STEM career five or even ten years out? Or maybe you are a current student weighing your options for a chosen career path and need to know the type of degree that is required.

Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education labor trends and workforce studies experts have culled through the BLS data and have summarized the outlook for several select STEM careers.

With the right information in-hand — and a prestigious research experience to complement your education — you can increase the confidence you have when selecting a STEM career.

Software Developers
There are over 1,469,000 software developers in the U.S. workforce either employed as systems software developers or employed as applications software developers. Together, employment for software developers is projected to grow 22 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Software developers will be needed to respond to an increased demand for computer software because of an increase in the number of products that use software. The need for new applications on smart phones and tablets will also increase the demand for software developers. Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks. Most jobs in this field require a degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field and strong computer programming skills.

Software developers are in charge of the entire development process for a software program from identifying the core functionality that users need from software programs to determining requirements that are unrelated to the functions of the software, such as the level of security and performance. Software developers design each piece of an application or system and plan how the pieces will work together. This often requires collaboration with other computer specialists to create optimum software.

Atmospheric Scientists
Atmospheric sciences include fields such as climatology, climate science, cloud physics, aeronomy, dynamic meteorology, atmosphere chemistry, atmosphere physics, broadcast meteorology and weather forecasting.

Most jobs in the atmospheric sciences require at least a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science or a related field that studies the interaction of the atmosphere with other scientific realms such as physics, chemistry or geology. Additionally, courses in remote sensing by radar and satellite are useful when pursuing this career path.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer models have greatly improved the accuracy of forecasts and resulted in highly customized forecasts for specific purposes. The need for atmospheric scientists working in private industry is predicted to increase as businesses demand more specialized weather information for time-sensitive delivery logistics and ascertaining the impact of severe weather patterns on industrial operations. The demand for atmospheric scientists working for the federal government will be subject to future federal budget constraints. The BLS projects employment of atmospheric scientists to grow by 8 percent over the 2018 to 2028 period. The largest employers of atmospheric scientists and meteorologists are the federal government, research and development organizations in the physical, engineering, and life sciences, state colleges and universities and television broadcasting services.

Electrical and Electronics Engineers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are approximately 324,600 electrical and electronics engineers in the U.S. workforce. Workers in this large engineering occupation can be grouped into two large components — electrical engineers and electronics engineers. About 188,300 electrical engineers design, develop, test or supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as power generation equipment, electrical motors, radar and navigation systems, communications, systems and the electrical systems of aircraft and automobiles. They also design new ways to use electricity to develop or improve products. Approximately 136,300 electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment such as broadcast and communications equipment, portable music players, and Global Positioning System devices, as well as working in areas closely related to computer hardware. Engineers whose work is devoted exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers. Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree, and internships and co-op experiences are a plus.

The number of jobs for electrical engineers is projected by BLS to grow slightly faster (9 percent) than the average for all engineering occupations in general (8 percent) and faster than for electronics engineers (4 percent) as well. However, since electrical and electronics engineering is a larger STEM occupation, growth in employment is projected to result in over 21,000 new jobs over the 2016-2026 period. The largest employers of electrical engineers are engineering services firms; telecommunications firms; the federal government; electric power generation, transmission and distribution organizations such as public and private utilities; semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturers; organizations specializing in research and development (R&D) in the physical, engineering and life sciences; and navigational, measuring, electro-medical and control systems manufacturers.

BLS notes three major factors influencing the demand for electrical and electronic engineers. One, the need for technological innovation will increase the number of jobs in R&D, where their engineering expertise will be needed to design power distribution systems related to new technologies. They will also play important roles in developing solar arrays, semiconductors and communications technologies, such as 5G. Two, the need to upgrade the nation’s power grids and transmission components will drive the demand for electrical engineers. Finally, a third driver of demand for electrical and electronic engineers is the design and development of ways to automate production processes, such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and Distributed Control Systems (DCS).

Data Science and Data Analysts
Technological advances have made it faster and easier for organizations to acquire data. Coupled with improvements in analytical software, companies are requiring data in more ways and higher quantities than ever before, and this creates many important questions for them, including “Who do we hire to work with this data”? The answer is likely a Data Scientist.

When trying to answer the question “what is data science,” Investopedia defines it as providing “meaningful information based on large amounts of complex data or big data. Data science, or data-driven science, combines different fields of work in statistics and computation to interpret data for decision-making purposes.” This includes data engineers, operations research analysts, statisticians, data analysts and mathematicians.

The BLS projects the employment of statisticians and mathematicians to grow 30 percent from 2018-2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. According to the source, organizations will increasingly need statisticians to organize and analyze data in order to help improve business processes, design and develop new products and advertise products to potential customers. In addition, the large increase in available data from global internet use has created new areas for analysis such as examining internet search information and tracking the use of social media and smartphones. In the medical and pharmaceutical industries, biostatisticians will be needed to conduct the research and clinical trials necessary for companies to obtain approval for their products from the Food and Drug Administration.

Along with that of statistician, the employment of operations research analysts is projected by the BLS to grow by 26 percent from 2018-2028, again much faster than the average for all occupations. As organizations across all economic sectors look for efficiency and cost savings, they seek out operations research analysts to help them analyze and evaluate their current business practices, supply chains and marketing strategies in order to improve their ability to make wise decisions moving forward. Operations research analysts are also frequently employed by the U.S. Armed Forces and other governmental groups for similar purposes.

To learn more about other flourishing careers in STEM, visit bls.gov/ooh to learn more.

Source: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

Letter From the Editor — The Power of Act II
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Leland Melvin Cover

By Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

The beauty of the STEAM fields is that they represent industries where growth and change are constant. STEAM is all about repurposing and redefining both ourselves and the world around us for a better tomorrow.

Oftentimes, the best part of the story comes in the second act.

For American engineer and STEAM advocate Leland D. Melvin, this couldn’t be truer. Melvin was a star on his high school and collegiate football teams before beating the odds to join the NFL as a member of both the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions.

However, he would beat the odds again after a career-ending injury would catapult him into his Act II as an astronaut and Associate Administrator for Education for NASA.

Now, he’s an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the STEAM fields. “The biggest part of succeeding in a NASA culture is to be a team member,” he said. “Just like sports and mathematics. That’s why diversity is so important.”

Learn more about Leland Melvin’s story on page 26.

If you’re thinking about your own second act, check out which careers are in high demand this year on page 38.

Tawanah Reeves-Ligon
Tawanah Reeves-Ligon, Editor Diversity in STEAM Magazine

Trying to grow or save your small business post-pandemic? Learn the five business strategies that can help you overcome COVID-19 on page 66.

If the next part of your story is getting more education, find the best STEAM scholarships on page 80.

Finally, check out how researchers are planning to combat climate change by giving critically endangered and extinct animals (like the Woolly Mammoth!) a second chance in the wild on page 16.

It’s rare to get things perfectly right the first time around. At Diversity in STEAM, we encourage you to continue pressing forward, so that your next act is always your best act.

A dinosaur embryo has been found inside a fossilized egg. Here’s what that means.
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dinosaur embryo Reconstruction of a close-to-hatching oviraptorosaur egg.

BY Caitlin O’Kane, CBS News

A well-preserved dinosaur embryo has been found inside a fossilized egg. The fossilized dinosaur embryo came from Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province in southern China and was acquired by researchers in 2000.

Researchers at Yingliang Group, a company that mines stones, suspected it contained egg fossils, but put it in storage for 10 years, according to a news release. When construction began on Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum, boxes of unearthed fossils were sorted through.

“Museum staff identified them as dinosaur eggs and saw some bones on the broken cross section of one of the eggs,” Lida Xing of China University of Geosciences, Beijing, said in a news release. A embryo was found hidden within, which they named “Baby Yingliang.”

The embryo is that of the bird-like oviraptorosaurs, part of the theropod group. Theropod means “beast foot,” but theropod feet usually resembled those of birds. Birds are descended from one lineage of small theropods.

In studying the embryo, researchers found the dinosaur took on a distinctive tucking posture before hatching, which had been considered unique to birds. The study is published in the iScience journal.

Researchers say this behavior may have evolved through non-avian theropods. “Most known non-avian dinosaur embryos are incomplete with skeletons disarticulated,” said Waisum Maof the University of Birmingham, U.K. “We were surprised to see this embryo beautifully preserved inside a dinosaur egg, lying in a bird-like posture. This posture had not been recognized in non-avian dinosaurs before.”

While fossilized dinosaur eggs have been found during the last 100 years, discovering a well-preserved embryo is very rare, the researchers said in the release.

The embryo’s posture was not previously seen in non-avian dinosaur, which is “especially notable because it’s reminiscent of a late-stage modern bird embryo.”

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

A viral image of a Black fetus is highlighting the need for diversity in medical illustrations
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medical illustration of a Black fetus in the womb.

By Harmeet Kaur, CNN

At first glance, the image looks like a standard drawing that could easily be found in the pages of a medical textbook or on the walls of a doctor’s office.

But what sets apart the illustration of a fetus in the womb that recently captured the attention of the internet is a simple, yet crucial, detail: its darker skin tone.

The image, created by Nigerian medical student and illustrator Chidiebere Ibe, struck a chord with countless people on social media, many of whom said that they had never seen a Black fetus or a Black pregnant woman depicted before. It also brought attention to a larger issue at hand: A lack of diversity in medical illustrations.

(While most fetuses are red in color — newborns come out dark pink or red and only gradually develop the skin tone they will have for life — the medical illustration is intended to represent patients who aren’t used to seeing their skin tones in such images.)

Ibe said in an interview with HuffPost UK that he didn’t expect to receive such an overwhelming response — his fetus illustration was one of many such images he’s created as a medical illustrator, most of which depict Black skin tones. But it underscored the importance of a mission he’s long been committed to.
“The whole purpose was to keep talking about what I’m passionate about — equity in healthcare — and also to show the beauty of Black people,” he told the publication. “We don’t only need more representation like this — we need more people willing to create representation like this.”

CNN reached out to Ibe for comment, but he did not expand on the topic further.
Ni-Ka Ford, diversity committee chair for the Association of Medical Illustrators, said that the organization was grateful for Ibe’s illustration.
“Along with the importance of representation of Black and Brown bodies in medical illustration, his illustration also serves to combat another major flaw in the medical system, that being the staggering disproportionate maternal mortality rate of Black women in this country,” she wrote in an email to CNN.

What medical illustration is
Medical illustrations have been used for thousands of years to record and communicate procedures, pathologies and other facets of medical knowledge, from the ancient Egyptians to Leonardo da Vinci. Science and art are combined to translate complex information into visuals that can communicate concepts to students, practitioners and the public. These images are used not just in textbooks and scientific journals, but also films, presentations and other mediums.

There are fewer than 2,000 trained medical illustrators in the world, according to the Association of Medical Illustrators. With only a handful of accredited medical illustration programs in North America, which tend to be expensive and admit few students, the field has historically been dominated by people who are White and male — which, in turn, means the bodies depicted have usually been so, too.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Leland Melvin’s Making Space Inclusive
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featured cover story Leland Melvin is pictured in a collage of photos with crewmembers and reading books to children

Interview and Story By Brady Rhoades

On a day he’ll never forget, astronaut Leland Melvin saw 24 sunsets in 24 hours. He flew over his hometown of Lynchburg, Va., and thought of his family, his modest and healthy upbringing; seven minutes later he was over Paris.

It wasn’t lost on him that he was African-American and his crew members included women, Russians, people from all walks of life.

“It made me contemplate my existence,” he said. “My faith was stronger, more magnified, and doing it with people we used to fight against.”

An Unusual Route
Melvin, 57, and, in his post-astronaut career, a prominent advocate for STEAM, did not take the usual route to space. He was a wide receiver in the NFL, but he suffered a career-ending injury and Act II of a remarkable life journey was on.

Since childhood, he’d been interested in engineering, though he was known for his exploits on the gridiron. He starred at his high school, at University of Richmond and, in his short stint in the pros, for the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

Along the way, he earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in materials science engineering.

It’s been said that luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.

Melvin’s post-NFL opportunity came at a job fair. A recruiter tracked him down and told him, “You’re coming to work at NASA.”

A Team Player

This was in the 1980s. Melvin said his mental image of NASA involved white men with crew cuts. He wasn’t far off. “Historically, NASA has been myopically focused on a certain mindset,” he said. He became part of a sea-change in the world’s most esteemed space organization.

“The biggest part of succeeding in a NASA culture is to be a team member,” he said. “Just like sports and mathematics. That’s why diversity is so important. You look at things in a different way. To work at NASA, you have to allow yourself to be heard.

Reading Is Fundamental and NASA teamed up for an African American History Month celebration. Leland Melvin, a former astronaut and NASA's Associate Administrator for Education shares his experiences travelling in space and read-aloud the book, The Moon Over Star by author Dianna Hutts Aston in Washington, D.C.
Reading Is Fundamental and NASA teamed up for an African American History Month celebration. Leland Melvin, a former astronaut and NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education shares his experiences travelling in space and read-aloud the book, The Moon Over Star by author Dianna Hutts Aston in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: (Photo by Marvin Joseph/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)

People sometimes don’t speak up because they’ve been marginalized.”

Melvin started his career in aerospace working in the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA Langley Research Center in 1989. In 1994, he was selected to lead the Vehicle Health Monitoring team for the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle program. In 1996, he co-designed and monitored construction of an optical nondestructive evaluation facility capable of producing in-line fiber optic sensors.

He became an astronaut in 1998, after sustaining a traumatic ear injury during underwater training exercises and, eventually, being cleared to fly despite his lifelong impairment.

He flew two missions – 565 hours of total log time – on the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-122, and as mission specialist 1 on STS-129. The STS-122 mission was accomplished in 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds, and traveled 5.2 million miles in 203 Earth orbits. The STS-129 mission was completed in 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits.

Associate Administrator for Education and Astronaut Leland Melvin talks with school children during the “Build the Future” activity where students created their vision of the future in space with LEGO bricks and elements inside a tent that was set up on the launch viewing area at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

While in space, he completed a football pass to another astronaut. He also took hundreds of jaw-dropping photographs.

Mission Possible
After hanging up his space boots, he was appointed head of NASA Education and served as the co-chair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM} Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. Leland was the United States’ representative and chair of the International Space Education Board, a global collaboration on learning about space.

He uses his life story as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer and musician to help inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM} careers.

The STS-122 and Expedition 16 crewmembers gather for a photo in the International Space Station.
The STS-122 and Expedition 16 crewmembers gather for a photo in the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

One of his mantras is, “Data over bias.” Bias separates people. Data-sharing brings them together and leads to advances in STEAM and in society.

Space exploration, he said, is about “going someplace you haven’t been and getting over your biases.” It’s a universal win-win, or what he calls “Mission Possible.” And Melvin trusts it will lead to even bigger things. “We’re not going to have a colony on Mars, but we are going to have a human outpost,” he said, preferring the latter term.

Starring in the NFL and flying in outer space are two colossal endeavors. He’s the only human being to do both. He’s also authored two books, “Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances” and “Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition.” He’s an accomplished photographer (visit LelandMelvin.com for images}.

On the same website, he gives kid-friendly lessons on, among other things, how to build a rocket racer and how to dissolve the coating on your candy in a really cool way.

He plays the piano in his spare time. And he loves his dogs, who appear on the cover of both his books.

Space shuttle Atlantis crew mission specialists Leland Melvin (R), Rex Walheim (2nd R), European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Hans Schlegel (2nd L) of Germany and ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts (L) of France outside the Operations and Checkout building on February 7, 2008 as they board the Astrovan to launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Space shuttle Atlantis crew mission specialists, including Leland Melvin (R), outside the Operations and Checkout building  as they board the Astrovan to launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Photo Credit: (STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images)

During his interview with Diversity in STEAM Magazine, he was busy feeding his dogs. We asked him what this world- renowned astronaut, explorer, athlete, photographer and teacher has learned from his pups.

“Presence,” he said. “We need to live like our dogs. Chill. Get something to eat. Yawn. Smile. Be like your dog.”

Speaking of presence, he drives home the importance of looking up and around as much as looking down at your devices. Imagine, for instance, an astronaut so fixated on the instruments inside the vessel that he or she forgets to appreciate the majesty of outer space. On a recent hiking trip, Melvin witnessed several young adults busy on their digital instruments.

“Right out there in nature!” he laughed. “There’s a balance between tech and digging your feet into Mother Earth.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022
  3. From Day One
    February 9, 2022
  4. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
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    February 22, 2022
  6. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022