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Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science with a Q & A with Emily Calandrelli 

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Celebrating Women in Science like Emily Calandrelli 
By Serena Harding

We also got to speak to the one and only Emily Calandrelli who is an Emmy-nominated science TV host being featured as a correspondent on Bill Nye Saves the World. She studied Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at West Virginia University and received her Masters from MIT in Aeronautics and Astronautics. She is definitely a force to be reckoned with!

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How did your journey in science begin? Where did it all start?
I went to engineering in undergrad but that was kind of like my first big step into STEM. Growing up, I didn’t know anybody in science or engineering in my family or my extended family but in high school I kind of liked math, I thought I was pretty good at it and I was a very logical kid. I read that if you want to make money after graduating from college and you like math then you should become an engineer and that is what I chose to do and when I got into school and I discovered that NASA had all of these incredible opportunities for students pursuing aerospace engineering and I really wanted to fly in the Vomit Comet and so many different NASA centers and it was very intriguing as a student and so I decided to go into aerospace engineering so that I can fly on the Vomit Comet and I have just been enamored by the space industry ever since.

What are you working on currently?
Oh gosh so many different things, it’s a pretty odd career that I have. My main job is the Executive Producer and host on a show on FOX called Xploration Outer Space, it’s a Saturday morning science show for middle school and high school students. I am a Field Correspondent for Bill Nye on his show on Netflix, Bill Nye Saves the World. I am the author of the Ada Lace Inventors a cool chapter book series for kids aged 6-10 that features a third grader, Ada Lace, who loves science and technology and builds robots and gadgets to solve problems in her life. I also work with Lockheed Martin on a YouTube series, I go to different schools and do speaking events and things like that. It’s just a lot of random stuff here and there.

You’re a correspondent, an author, speaker, a host…how do you keep up with it all?
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Well you start with one thing and then you start slowly building and then when you feel crazy you try to dial it back a little bit. Honestly there will be days I’m working on all things at one and there will be days where I’m only working on one thing all day long and I kind of push everything else to the side and so you just figure it out and I also work with very talented people on all of these different projects that help make it possible.

Who is a role model of yours in your field?

People of course like Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson are people who are the masters of their craft in my field of science communication. I consider myself above all things a science communicator and to see people who are really really knowledgeable about the science but are also good storytellers and good entertainers, to me that is such a wonderful combination of skills and capabilities that I think the world needs more of that combination and to see people who are good at both of those things is inspiring and something to aspire to for sure for me.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

To be honest, right now I have a few things that I’m proud of mostly because when I grew up I didn’t consider myself one of the smart kids and there was a very defined group of smart kids growing up in my school and I was not one of them. These kids went off to Ivey Leagues right out of high school and were so incredibly impressive and I never imagined myself to be anything like them and so one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life was to do well enough in my state school to get into MIT and to this day that is one of the proudest accomplishments I’ve ever done because it was very scary and hard and so I’m really excited about that.

Last year, I got my first Emmy nomination as the host for the series for a specific episode that I created and that was nice because that was a great milestone for me you know stepping into my shows as a producer and host and having that affirmation that I am on the right track.

What do you think is the biggest challenge women in STEM face?

Honestly, the fact that it’s a boy’s club that is the root of a lot of the issues that women face. When you’re a high school senior, you are already nervous about choosing engineering or one of the sciences as your major because everybody knows those are the hardest majors to do well in and when you’re a senior in high school and you’re already nervous about moving and going to college, you don’t need one more thing on your plate to worry about.

When you’re thinking about your major and all of sudden you realize not only will this be really hard and not only you are entering a new place and you might not know anybody, you’re the only girl in some of your classes and that is just not one more thing you need to discourage women from going into STEM.

What is your message for girls and the next generation of scientists?

I think this is already happening and I love to see it but the advice I always give to women who are younger and are trying to go into sciences or STEM is to try to make as many female friends in STEM fields as you can because those female friendships will prove to be the most valuable relationships you have throughout your career and throughout your life. Sometimes it’s hard because there is not that many of them in college or depending on where you’re at but when you find a good female friend in STEM, you should work hard to maintain that relationship.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I’m really obsessed with travelling, I save my money to travel!
Why is having International Day of Women and Girls in Science important?

I think taking a day to remember the value that women bring to different industries is incredibly valuable for people who are not women but also women themselves. For us to take in and remember that we bring value to our own organizations, we have different experiences men do not have that allow us to bring different ideas to the table and help innovation in whatever setting we find ourselves in.

I think it’s really good for us to take a beat and remember that even if you may be one woman in a room full of men, your ideas still matter and your opinions are still valid and can be incredibly useful to your organization.
 
If you want to learn more about the amazing things Emily is up to, check out her website at thespacegal.com and follow her @TheSpaceGal on Twitter and Instagram.

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*The words of this interview have been modified for editing purposes