Lindy Elkins-Tanton of NASA’s asteroid mission is writing a memoir

When Lindy Elkins-Tanton applied to MIT, the high school math teacher who wrote her recommendation told her, “You’ll never get in.” She proved him wrong, but throughout her extraordinary career in planetary science, she was often made to question whether she, as a woman, belonged. In Portrait of a Scientist as a Young Woman, Dr. Elkins-Tanton describes her traumatic childhood, the solace she found in research, and her accomplishments. In addition to being vice president of Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative, she is principal investigator of NASA’s Psyche mission, an 11-year, $800 million effort by an 800-person team to launch a spacecraft to study the massive asteroid Psyche. The market launch is expected sometime in the next two years. She spoke recently to Monitor.

How did you deal with being made to feel like an outsider as a woman in science?

It was interesting for me to see how these experiences accumulated as I wrote the book. In some places these words really stuck with me, like with my math teacher: “I must not be good at math.” This is something I push back against – why is it okay to say girls are not good at math?

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