The next installment of Germanna’s Community Conversation series will feature Moogega “Moo” Cooper, the planetary protection lead of the NASA 2020 Mars mission, who will discuss what inspired her love of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
The virtual event, titled “Diversity in S.T.E.A.M. From a Real-Life Guardian of the Galaxy,” will take place Monday at 7 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public, but registration is required at Germanna.edu/Conversations.
During the discussion, Cooper will share her journey, talk about obstacles she overcame, and offer tales of what it’s like to be responsible for keeping Mars safe from Earth’s contaminants, according to a news release from Germanna.
Cooper, 27, has become something of a STEM influencer, and is dedicated to sharing her joy of science with children and adults worldwide, the release states. She is involved in various science outreach initiatives — mostly with K–12 students. She has also appeared on shows such as “Because Space,” “How the Universe Works” and “Bill Nye Saves the World.”
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Her interests include sample return missions from Mars and developing sterilization capabilities for future mission use, the release states.
According to the release, Cooper was born in 1985 in New Jersey to a Korean mother and an African-American, World War II veteran father. She earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Hampton University in 2006 and a master’s and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Drexel University in 2009, the release states.
Upon graduating, Cooper became a Post-Doc at NASA, where she worked on assessing microorganisms found in spacecraft assembly cleanrooms. She also worked on technologies that can search for and monitor the persistence of life in extreme environments, according to the news release. In 2011, she became a full-time employee at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Planetary Protection Group, working on technology development and contamination assessment methodologies to meet planetary protection requirements for the Mars Sample Return Mission.
In a talk last fall, Cooper said she hopes to encourage more women to enter STEM fields. She said that when there’s a debate in a primarily male scientific community, “I have to remember … my voice deserves to be here, and I’m not just an impostor.”
She said more women and people of color have entered science fields, but there is still work to be done. She said she wants her example to help students realize they can do whatever they set their minds to.
A number of Germanna students have had internships at NASA, including some women and persons of color, the news release states.