NASA provides Indigenous student with STEM launchpad

Paul Eyers
Paul Eyers

An Indigenous university student will reach for the stars as she heads to the United States for a once-in-a-lifetime NASA internship.

Tully Mahr is studying engineering at the University of Melbourne and was handpicked as one of five First Nations students to participate in the 10-week NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory program.

Read more: University of Sydney student among first National Indigenous Space Academy interns at NASA

The new cohort is part of Monash University’s National Indigenous Space Academy (NISA), backed by the Australian Space Agency, to provide Indigenous students with more STEM career opportunities.

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Ms Marr said she hoped her roots as a Gundungurra woman would help inspire more indigenous students to consider a STEM pathway.

“I am passionate about bridging Indigenous knowledge with advanced engineering concepts, aiming to bring unique perspectives and holistic approaches to aerospace research and development,” she said.

“I am beyond excited to get involved with NISA and continue advocating for careers in STEM for women and Indigenous Australians.”

Monash University’s National Indigenous Space Academy lead Professor Christopher Lawrence said Indigenous Australians have an innovative and influential history in STEM.

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“Indigenous Australians are the first scientists, engineers, technologists, mathematicians and doctors,” the Wadjak-Ballardong Noongar man said.

“This is a pathway for Indigenous students to participate in unique NASA and JPL projects such as robotics for the unexplored ocean worlds, robot perception control, artificial intelligence, and path planning, as well as satellite.”

STEM education creates an exciting career launchpad

Ms Mahr said the chance to work alongside some of NASA’s best scientists and engineers will get her even closer to fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.

Her passion for aeronautical engineering was demonstrated when she began flight training at 14-years-old before completing her first solo flight on her 15th birthday.

“I am really looking forward to the opportunity to meet the people working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I am thrilled to have the chance to learn about their own career paths, what their projects are and what they have studied,” she said.

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The 21-year-old will spend the next three months at NASA’s Pasadena base in California where she will undertake her research project on Mineralogical Analysis of Compositional Gradients in Hydrothermal Chimneys.

“This basically means researching life forms in the ocean as a way of understanding how life could form on other planetary bodies,” she said.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with a singular perspective on the world.