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For Dr. Jennifer Sidey, a giant leap started
out with a small step.
Sidey, one of two new astronauts recruited
by the Canadian Space Agency last year, spoke to Sisler High School students on
The Calgary-born 29-year-old came to the
CSA from the University of Cambridge, where she worked as an assistant
professor in internal combustion engines in the department of engineering. As a
young girl, Sidey imagined herself as an astronaut, but she didn’t think her
dreams could be reality until recently, when she saw an advertisement for the
CSA recruitment campaign and decided to apply.
“There was loads I wanted to do when I was
10. I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to be a geologist. I wanted to
collect rocks on Mars. I had all these far-out ideas,” Sidey said.
“But, there was certainly a time in my life
when I veered away from looking at space as a possibility. I love engineering
and I love combustion. I would happily work in that field for the rest of my
life, and I was ready to, but part of that was because I didn’t think (being an
astronaut) was possible, at all. But, someone has to do this job. Someone has
to do all of your dream jobs, so why shouldn’t it be you?”
Sidey is currently living in Houston,
Texas, participating in the two-year astronaut candidate training program at
the Johnson Space Center. Her days include learning Russian, learning the ins
and outs of the space suit and the International Space Station, and learning to
fly a supersonic jet.
After a 20-minute talk, Sidey took
questions from Sisler students. One student asked Sidey if she faced any
obstacles being a woman in a male-dominated field.
“There were setbacks. In my engineering
degree, I was never taught by a woman. I didn’t have one female professor. I
had a hundred male professors,” Sidey said.
“But, it was worth pursuing, because I
became a professor, ensuring that none of my students would ever not have a
female professor. That was a change that I made. There are little setbacks, but
it’s all worth it.”