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Women in STEM

She Shot for the Stars. Now She’s Building Space Crafts That Will Take Us There

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Scharwz

Tiera Fletcher graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She’s now a rocket structural design and analysis engineer for Boeing, and is helping build NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which will eventually take humans to Mars.

We talked to her about how she got inspired to pursue the sciences, and why it’s important for more women and people of color to do the same.

What drives your interest in research — particularly in aerospace engineering research?

The idea of exploring the unknown and being at the forefront of innovation drives my desire for aerospace engineering research. The world of aerospace is evolving exponentially and contributing to a new era of travel.

Many people outside the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) fields do not realize how collaborative they are. I know you are working on the SLS (Space Launch System) project with your husband, fellow aerospace engineer Myron Fletcher. What excites you most about being part of the team working on the first rocket ship to Mars together?

Like many other aerospace products, the NASA Space Launch System has thousands of hands and minds working on it every day. People from various fields and companies come together to make this project possible, including engineers, scientists, legal personnel, business personnel, technicians, and so many more. Collaboration is at the center of success for massive programs such as these. It’s super exciting to be a part of a great team that is working on getting the first humans to Mars.

As a woman of color in STEAM, how would you like to see the industry improve its mindset for inclusion?

As a woman of color in STEAM, I would like to see the industry embrace the importance of diversity of background in order to achieve diversity of mind. Additionally, it is also important for the industry to understand the importance of embracing diversity throughout all levels of the company, from entry level to executive level.

How did your research experiences help prepare for your career?

Throughout my educational career, I have sought challenging courses to expand my knowledge of science, math, technology, and engineering. By pursuing my aerospace engineering degree at MIT, I added many research opportunities to my portfolio, including design and analysis of aerospace vehicles, human factors, material sciences, and much more. Those research experiences shaped my background to prepare me for my current career as a structural engineer.

What tools and/or methodologies are most helpful to your work?

The backbone of my daily work lies in mathematics, programming, and physics. The skillsets I have developed in those fields are fantastic for carrying out my tasks. In addition to academics, leadership experiences and communication development opportunities have been extremely helpful in the work environment. 

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