Dr. Mae Jemison: Sky's the limit

Summer Blog Post #4 - Monday, August 17, 2020

Mae Carol Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama on October 17th, 1956. She is the youngest of three, born to Charlie Jemison, a maintenance worker, and Dorothy Jemison, an elementary school teacher. At age 3, her family moved to Chicago, Illinois for better educational opportunities. From a very young age, she exhibited a deep passion for science, especially astronomy.

Jemison attended Morgan Park High School and performed very well, graduating as an honor student at the age of 16. She was accepted into Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship. Jemison participated in many extracurricular activities during her time as an undergraduate, including being the head of the Black Student Union. In 1977, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in African and African American studies.

After graduating from Stanford, Jemison attended Cornell University Medical College. During her years there as a medical student, she traveled to Cuba, to lead a study for the American Medical Student Association. Jemison also worked at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand.

After receiving her Doctorate in Medicine in 1981, Dr. Mae Jemison interned at Los Angeles County Medical Center and went on to be a general practitioner. In 1983, she joined the Peace Corps and served as a medical officer for two and a half years in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

After working with the Peace Corps, Jemison opened a private practice. Around that time, she decided to apply to the astronaut program at NASA. In 1987, she was one of fifteen people chosen for the program out of 2,000 applicants. Upon being selected, Jemison went on to train with NASA and work on projects at the Kennedy Space Center and the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory. On September 28th, 1989, she went on her first mission as a Mission Specialist, making her responsible for conducting crew-related scientific experiments on the space shuttle. September 12th, 1992 was the day that she and six other astronauts went into space and Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African American female astronaut.

After six years of serving as an astronaut, Jemison left NASA and started The Jemison Group, a consulting company that encourages science, technology, and social change. Jemison also began teaching environmental studies at Dartmouth College. She even guest starred in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Presently, she is leading the 100 year Starship project with the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. A project that works to ensure that human space travel to another star is possible within the next 100 years. Jemison has received many awards and honorary degrees, including being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Dr. Mae Jemison’s story is one that shows just how far pursuing medicine can take you. From a small town of Decatur, with a population of less than 2 000, to crossing the Atlantic into the Sub-Saharan countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia, to piercing through the Earth’s atmosphere into space, not even the sky’s the limit.

By: Anonymous