Women in STEM: NASA administrator says 'come join us'

For the women who find themselves "a little obsessed" with space and wonder if there’s a career in it for you, NASA wants you to "come join us." 

Nicola "Nicky" Fox, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, sat down with LiveNow from FOX as part of its Women’s History Month interview series

According to NASA, Fox directs about 100 NASA missions "to explore the secrets of the universe–missions that use the view from space to assess questions as practical as hurricane formation, as enticing as the prospect of lunar resources, as amazing as behavior in weightlessness, and as profound as the origin of the universe." 

"She is responsible for fostering an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere and supporting a diverse team of space scientists and engineers around the country," NASA says. "Dr. Fox creates a balanced portfolio of carefully chosen missions and research goals to enable a deep scientific understanding of Earth, other planets, the Sun, and the universe. These efforts lay the intellectual foundation for the robotic and human expeditions of the future, while meeting today's needs for scientific information to address national concerns."

Fox’s orbit to NASA

Fox said she’s always loved science, but her journey to NASA wasn’t necessarily planned. 

"I don't think it was a conscious decision (to work in STEM)," she said. "I just love science from a really, really early age. I liked the, you ask questions, you do experiments, you get answers, that whole kind of scientific method. I just always loved it. I'm also obsessed with space."


The sign for NASA next to the X-59 aircraft during a media preview at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, California, US, on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Lockheed Martin Corp. and NASA unveiled the X-59, a supersonic jet designed to fly faster than th

Fox, who grew up in England, earned a Ph.D. in "sort of space physics" from Imperial College in London and was presenting her work at a conference in Alaska. That’s when a senior scientist approached her and asked if she’d be interested in doing a post-doctorate at NASA. 

"I was doing my studies in London and I did not realize that, you know, an opportunity like that existed for an English girl from Hitchin in Hertfordshire. So that's how I did the application and got hired as a postdoc," she said. 

Women at NASA

Fox said she’s benefited from strong female role models at NASA, but that’s just one facet of NASA’s approach to diverse hiring – something they consider key to success in their challenging missions. 

"Obviously, we have very hard goals," she said. "Going to space is not easy. Space is not for the faint of heart. It's a tough thing to do. I think it is really just about building that very diverse viewpoint. You know, if you have teams that all look the same, think the same and act the same, you will get the same. When you bring people in with different perspectives, different experiences and maybe different ways of thinking about things, it just makes the team so much stronger.

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"And from whatever background, whatever place you come from, everyone has a slightly different perspective. And bringing them together is something that is very, very important to having these really high-performing teams and these great results."

Working at NASA

If you’ve ever wondered about a career at NASA, Fox thinks you should "just do it."

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"Seriously. Just do it," she said. "A career at NASA is amazing and you don't have to be a scientist. Really. There are careers for everyone at NASA. It takes, you know, it doesn't take a village, it takes, you know, a city to put missions into space. And, you know, you really need all different skill mixes. So if space is something that you're obsessed with, just go ahead, start applying and come join us."

Exciting new NASA missions 

Among the many missions Fox is overseeing at NASA, she said she’s particularly excited about an Earth science mission called PACE. 

According to NASA, the PACE mission will study "the impact of tiny, often invisible things: microscopic life in water and microscopic particles in the air." The satellite launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in February. 

"Trust me, if you think your planet is beautiful, wait till you see the images from PACE," Fox said. "They are stunning."

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Later this year, NASA will launch its Europa Clipper to study Jupiter’s moon Europa. Scientists believe a vast ocean lies beneath the moon’s icy surface. The mission hopes to determine whether Europa has conditions suitable to support life. 

Watch the eclipse with NASA

If you’re not in one of the best viewing locations for the upcoming total solar eclipse – or if the weather gets cloudy – NASA has you covered. 

NASA will be streaming coverage of the eclipse online. 

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The agency says it will host live coverage on its website, app, and social channels from 1 to 4 p.m. EDT on April 8. 

"So even if you can’t get to totality, we will bring totality to you," Fox said.