Tales from the gym: *Training* with an Astronaut in DC

Julie Payette

Julie Payette

I am in DC this week for the 2013 Gender Summit, and yesterday’s keynote speaker was Julie Payette, a Canadian engineer and former NASA astronaut. Women are severely underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, and therefore there is a dearth of female role models like Julie.

To be an astronaut is sort of a pinnacle of achievement for me in that it is both technically and physically challenging, a high profile and incredibly cool job, and I grew up admiring Sally Ride (who I fortunately had the pleasure to meet once.) As an athlete and engineer, astronauts are like super heroes to me. Who doesn’t respect rocket science and space travel?

So you might understand my excitement when strolling into the hotel gym at 5:30 this morning, there was a woman who I just knew was Julie Payette running away on a treadmill. After all, former astronauts have to keep in shape, right? So I go through my whole workout wondering if it is Julie, and thinking to myself with facetious pride…

Can I now say I trained with an astronaut?

Besides the fact that this Hilton has a bench and I got in a decent workout, I was pretty pumped to potentially be in the presence of someone I respect and admire, and we were both just training and trying to be fit. Though I had Julie on a pedestal, there in the gym, she seemed human and success like hers seemed more achievable somehow.

HOWEVER… As it turns out, once she disembarked the hamster wheel, I realized it was in fact NOT my astronaut heroine, but some other woman. Still, my workout was pumped thinking it true.

While I won’t be an astronaut, I do believe that my work and research in STEM and social justice can make a difference and pave a way for so many that will come behind me. Wouldn’t it be an honor if I get to be a role model and super hero like Julie Payette someday?

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