Ellen Stofan, the first woman to lead the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum talks about the power of museums and how they attract the young scientists. The former chief scientist at NASA, Stofan is one of those scientists who supported commercial activity in the Earth’s lower orbit and has also worked on a long-term plan of sending humans to Mars.
She has also visited many schools to encourage the students, especially those who belong to underrepresented groups to take science as careers. Also, before starting her new job, she spoke to the Scientific American about the Museum’s power and abilities to inspire the young scientists and to reverse attacks on science.
[An edited excerpt of that conversation follows.]
How did the museum influence you as a child and in your early career?
Stofan said that she always found Museums an awe-inspiring place. She also gave an example of Wright brothers, where she mentioned that there is the significant difference between listening to the stories of Wright brothers and watching the Wright Brother’s plane live in front of you. She also mentioned that in her sophomore years in college, she also took up the internship in the museum and worked as a low-level intern.
How does it make one feel to be the first woman leader and the museum’s director?
When asked about her role, she revealed that it is daunting and intimidating at the same time. It is a privilege to lead the museum, she added.
If you could achieve one goal in your new job, what would it be?
Stofan when asked about one goal that she wants to accomplish, she told that it is really crucial to inspire the next generation. She wants the next generation just not to see the period that we are walking into in the museum, but to wonder how they could be a part of it.
What makes the museum so popular?
According to Stofan, it is the space and aviation that interests kids the most. The way we are achieving and moving into the space from Earth inspires most of the kids as well as the kid who lives within us.
Can museums like yours help to combat the so-called post-truth era?
Stofan revealed that she believes that a lot of people are confused from where all this information is coming from. The museum will provide a step by step layout to show where the data is coming from and how scientists are using this information to study the planets and solar system.