Alumna Emily Calandrelli inspires WVU students during Fireside Chat
Emily Calandrelli, West Virginia University and mechanical and aerospace engineering alumna, returned to her alma mater for an intimate evening discussion on the roles engineers and computer scientists play in society, as well as on opportunities for students to further their education and prepare for future careers.
Story by Tara Heffernan, Multi-Media Specialist
Photos by Isis Moore, Social Media Manager
As a woman of many talents and passions, Emily Calandrelli’s work is driven by the mission to educate the public on science and space. She is an Emmy-nominated TV science host and communicator who has worked as a correspondent on “Bill Nye Saves the World” and as host of FOX’s “Xploration Outer Space.” She’s also the author of a science-based chapter book series, the “Ada Lace Adventures,” and co-executive producer and host of her own Netflix series “Emily’s Wonder Lab.”
Calandrelli spoke at WVU this week with engineering and computer science students for a Fireside Chat hosted by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium. The event was well attended by students eager to listen to Calandrelli share stories about her time at WVU, advice on how to reach ambitious career goals and highlights from her career as a celebrity science educator.
Calandrelli is a champion of promoting and encouraging interest in STEM education and careers in STEM, especially among women and girls. Many women in attendance at the event, across West Virginia and the country have been able to imagine themselves in STEM roles because of Calandrelli. Given Calandrelli’s accomplishments, many students were grateful that the alumna was willing to give back to the University that helped launch her career.
“Emily is such an inspiration to women in STEM and that’s something I’ve always been passionate about – being in STEM and inspiring other people as well,” explained Sara Brown, a senior in the wildlife and fisheries resources program and native of Martinsburg, WV. “I’ve looked up to the way she’s made a difference in the scientific community and the way she’s used her platform to make a difference.”
Calandrelli attributes perseverance as a crucial trait for success. The first time she applied for the Goldwater Fellowship, her application was rejected. However, this did not deter her. She asked for guidance from trusted staff in the WVU Aspire Office on how to strengthen her application and took their advice to seek out leadership experiences in undergraduate research by leading a research project with the WVU Microgravity Research Team. She applied for the fellowship the following year, and this time Calandrelli’s application was accepted.
Calandrelli credits these experiences as key points in her career, as they were used on her application to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which she attended from 2010-2013 as a graduate student.
Receiving the Goldwater Fellowship had a positive impact on Calandrelli’s career, which is why she is an outspoken supporter of the highly prestigious Brooke Owens Fellowship, a program that offers paid internships at leading aviation and space companies and organizations to passionate, exceptional women and gender-minority students seeking their undergraduate degrees in aerospace.
WVU has never had a student selected for the Brooke Owens Fellowship and Calandrelli, who serves as a member of the Fellowship’s executive committee, is on a mission to see that change.
During the Fireside Chat Calandrelli coached students on how to write a strong application and encouraged students to demonstrate perseverance, resilience, and persistence in order to stand out.
“I have seen nothing like it in the aerospace industry,” said Calandrelli. “Every single person who wins this, their career has been transformed. They have the network that sets them up for life.”
With Calandrelli’s encouragement, many students who attended the event indicated that they plan to apply to the Fellowship.
“To see someone so successful, a woman in STEM so successful, from WVU is really inspiring,” says Renee Garneau, a junior aerospace and math major from Winchester, VA.
Women or gender-minority students in aerospace looking to apply for the Brooke Owens Fellowship can learn more by visiting the Fellowship’s website.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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