From Space Camp to NASA: Alum Rosemary Williams Launches Her Career in Space Science
Aiming for the stars is what Girl Scouts do, and this summer, Girl Scout alum Rosemary Williams is taking her career to the stratosphere as an intern with NASA!
“Going to work at NASA has been my dream for a very long time,” says Rosemary. “When I found out I would be an intern at NASA Ames Research Center this summer, I was absolutely over the moon. I am incredibly excited for this opportunity, and I’m so ready to be surrounded by people who share my love for math and science and, most importantly, for space!” She joins a legacy of Girl Scout alums who made their mark at NASA, including Kathryn D. Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, to our very own Sylvia Acevedo, who worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories.
Rosemary has loved the idea of space exploration since she was a girl, and her experience in 2017 at Space Academy, a Girl Scout Destination, sealed the deal. “I got to be the commander on a flight simulation. I went through tech lists, just like a flight engineer on an actual mission,” she recalls. “We also did scuba diving to simulate ‘zero g’ [zero gravity], and we learned the history of the U.S. space program during the Cold War.”
Rosemary joined Girl Scouts as a freshman in high school. She already knew many of the girls in her troop—a close friend’s mother served as the troop leader—and she loved having a space where she could have fun and explore her interests. “I was very academic in high school and part of so many clubs,” says Rosemary. “Girl Scouts gave me a space where I didn’t have to worry about deadlines. It was a fun extracurricular. I loved working with kids—I’m a preschool teacher near my university—and Girl Scouts taught me the social skills that helped me get that job.”
Like many savvy Girl Scouts, she funded her space camp adventure with her cookie money. “I had $900 from cookie booths and sales,” Rosemary shares. “I made $300 my first year selling cookies; in my second year, I bought around 300 boxes and my troop leader was skeptical that I could sell them all. It was rough selling that many boxes, but I did it. It taught me to double-check myself and understand my inventory.”
Years later, space camp inspired Rosemary to take astronomy classes at Oregon State University, where she currently studies mechanical engineering. “You have to be super creative to be an engineer. You need to think of new solutions and analyze data. There’s so much to think about, and it applies to life in general—figuring out solutions you’ve never thought of before.”
Rosemary even shares her love of engineering and space with her preschool students. “I did a presentation on space, and I brought in a flight suit and talked about the planets,” she says. “Using strings hung across the classroom, I showed the kids how far the planets are from one another.”
As the recipient of a grant from Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium at OSU—one of a handful of colleges offering the grant—Rosemary is thrilled to pursue her passion for space science. “I love the unknown. We think the universe goes on and on, and it breaks my mind to think about it.”