Swati Mohan, NASA aerospace engineer and U.S. Speaker Program ExchangeAlumni, this Thursday, February 10 at 8:00 a.m. ET. Mohan’s journey from Bengaluru, India to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, her viral moment as the lead for the Perseverance Rover landing, and why she is a big proponent of encouraging other women to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science with Dr
Hi, my name is Swati Mohan. I was the lead guidance, navigation and control system engineer and operations lead for the Perseverance Rover, uh, and the mission commentator during landing day on . So as part of, um, that awareness, I was invited to do a inaugural diaspora dialogues talk that was sponsored by the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in India as, uh, voices of exchange to try to bring awareness of how the, uh, Indian diaspora is, uh, operating and succeeding in the United States to foster interest and collaboration discussion, basically between the U.
I did a single session for them the inaugural session and it was a, basically a 45-minute talk or so, uh, where I kind of talked about my life journey and how I went, you know, I was born in India and how I came to the U.S. and, uh, and my career path. And then there was time for question and answers that they took from, uh, multiple different places. Uh, it was co-streamed throughout the different embassies in India simultaneously. So in Delhi, in Mumbai, uh, Chennai and a couple of other places. So I think the whole event lasted for about an hour, hour and a half, um, and the, uh, audience was primarily Indians in India, I believe, but there were also some, uh, you know, dispersed from the U.S., uh, through their connection with me or through the State Department.
You know, it was really interesting. And the. I think because of the pandemic and we had to do this in the middle of the, the pandemic, it was all virtual, which gave it the benefit of being able to be, you know, simultaneously broadcast across multiple different centers. But then explanation also the downside where I couldn’t actually go to India and I couldn’t actually see, you know, the, the people asking the questions. So there’s kind of pros and cons of, of having to do it over a Zoom platform.
The question that I loved best was at the very end of, “What do you miss about, about India?” And it’s, um, been so long since I’ve actually been able to go. We were actually planning to go, um, this year after landing day, ’cause I finally have vacation that I can take, you know, in a big chunk. Um, and the, the COVID pandemic has just prevented that. So that kind of sparked this, “Oh, I miss so much about India. You know, the street food and the culture, and the festivals and visiting my family there ’cause I still have a, a lot of family that I haven’t seen in years just ’cause we haven’t been able to make it over.
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My family primarily lives in Karnataka. Um, I was born in a city called Bengaluru. Uh, so I still have a lot of family there specifically and actually my husband’s side of the family. Um, hi- they’re also from Bengaluru, so when we go there, we, that’s kind of our, our home base and we ha- feel like we’re related to half the city. Um, but I, I have some family also spread out a few in, in North India and in, in Tamil Nadu, but primarily in, in Bangalore. Uh, how many times have I been able to go back? It varies over the, the course of my lifetime. You know, when we first came to this country, uh, I was only one and um, my parents couldn’t afford to go back very often. You know, plane tickets back then were, were super expensive and they were still students and trying to pay for a family afford to, to go over to India, it was a, it was a big ordeal. So we went every five years or so.