Influential Women #09: Madhulika Guhathakurta

Time to take a different turn regarding this series: no more artists or social activists. Instead, I’m going to enter a terrain unknown to me: science. Specifically: astrophysics. The woman in question is Madhulika Guhathakurta, who is currently employed at NASA as one of its most respected astrophysicists.

Madhulika Guhathakurta grew up in India, in a middle-class family. As a child, she cou tld already hardly control her curiosity, and constantly asked her father question about the human race and the universe. When Madhulika had reached ninth grade, her parents wanted her to pursue fine arts, but she managed to convince them that she wanted to pursue science. This being a path mainly chosen by boys, and further on in education, men, it did not come easy to Madhulika. During her education, she was confronted with many acts of discrimination, not because she was not capable or smart enough, but simply because she was a woman in a man’s world.

Madhulika never let this stop her, though. After studying astrophysics at Delhi University, she moved to the United States of America to further continue her education in physics at the University of Denver. There, she finished her masters’ dissertation on the solar corona. Not much later, she was employed by NASA to work on the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, and she soon became one of their most prominent astrophysicists.

Madhulika got many opportunities at NASA to further develop her knowledge and abilities within the domain of astrophysics. She, for example, worked on the LWS-Program, the Living with a Star program, which is a program that consists of missions to improve our understand of how the sun varies and why, and what the consequences of that are for Earth. As of now, Madhulika is serving as a Lead Program Scientist for New Initiatives at the NASA Ames Research Center.

Through hard work and ambition, Madhulika Guhathakurta was able to fulfil her childhood dream. Up until now and probably for much longer in the future, Madhulika has played a significant role in solar research done by NASA, surpassing many of her male colleagues in the same domain. Not bad for a girl who was consistently told she was pursuing the wrong studies, huh?

  • L. Parole

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