Female astronaut Dr. Bonnie Dunbar visits CSUN to encourage students to pursue science degrees

Dr.+Bonnie+J.+Dunbar%2C+retired+NASA+astronaut%2C+signs+autographs+after+her+presentation+for+the+Women+in+Science+and+Engineering+Endowment+in+the+Oviatt+Library+on+Tuesday.+Photo+Credit%3A+Jessica+Albano+%2F+Contributor
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Female astronaut Dr. Bonnie Dunbar visits CSUN to encourage students to pursue science degrees

Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, retired NASA astronaut, signs autographs after her presentation for the Women in Science and Engineering Endowment in the Oviatt Library on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jessica Albano / Contributor

Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, retired NASA astronaut, signs autographs after her presentation for the Women in Science and Engineering Endowment in the Oviatt Library on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jessica Albano / Contributor

Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, retired NASA astronaut, signs autographs after her presentation for the Women in Science and Engineering Endowment in the Oviatt Library on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jessica Albano / Contributor

Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, retired NASA astronaut, signs autographs after her presentation for the Women in Science and Engineering Endowment in the Oviatt Library on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jessica Albano / Contributor

Ron Rokhy

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Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, retired NASA astronaut, signs autographs after her presentation for the Women in Science and Engineering Endowment in the Oviatt Library on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jessica Albano / Contributor

Women were encouraged to pursue careers in science and engineering Tuesday night when retired and decorated astronaut Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar spoke at CSUN’s Oviatt Library.

“Currently, the United States is falling behind in terms of students graduating with degrees in science,” Dunbar said. “Countries like Mexico and India will soon be surpassing us, and I think it’s extremely important to encourage students to study in these fields, it would be for the betterment of our country.”

The speech was sponsored by Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), established in 2009 by Professor Emeritus Bonita J. Campbell to inform educators about the importance of women in scientific fields.

Dunbar retired from NASA after 27 years of being an astronaut and space flight controller, and said her passion in life was space and space exploration.  Her high school teachers and college professors helped her pursue her dream.

“In 1967, in my senior year of high school, my physics teacher told me I should be an engineer,” she said. “But in my freshmen year, my statics professor sat me in the back of the class to not disturb ‘real engineer.’”

She changed her professor’s mind by getting an A in the class, Dunbar said.  The next year, she met Dr. James Mueller, a professor she could confide in.

“Dr. Mueller was the first person I told I wanted to be an astronaut,” she said. “I told him because I knew he wouldn’t laugh. He didn’t try to dissuade me.  In fact, he tried to recruit me.”

Dunbar went on to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s in science in ceramic engineering from the University of Washington, and a Ph.D in Mechanical/Biomedical Engineering from the University of Houston.

In 1978, she applied to be an astronaut but was rejected before getting accepted in 1980.

Five years later, she took her first flight to space in a joint operation with West Germany, and in 1990, she took part in a mission to retrieve a dying satellite with a robotic arm to preserve its data.

Dunbar recently retired as the president and CEO of the Museum of Flight to serve as executive director of Wings Over Washington, a space museum and education center.

Dunbar stressed the importance of women not being discouraged from studying field of science due to stereotypes.

“Women have been an important part of our scientific history for a long time,” said Dunbar. “We started with Rosie the Riveter, and have advanced to the point where we are hold high positions in scientific institutes.”