WOMEN ON A MISSION TO CHANGE OUR VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE
Growing up, Amy Lo, aspired to be a poet. But it wasn’t until she attended a high school chemistry class that the trajectory of her universe changed. The experiments “were fun, exciting, and made loud booms,” said Lo.
Now working in a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career as an engineer at Northrop Grumman, Lo is changing our understanding of the universe through the release of the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope.
Women in STEM
For generations, the brightest and most creative female minds have had the opportunity to build rewarding STEM careers at Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman, a pioneering technology company focused on global security and human discovery, remains steadfast in its commitment to build a world-class culture. By attracting and retaining the best and most diverse talent, they help solve their customers’ toughest problems.
Among the women executives leading this company mission is Amy Lo, deputy space vehicle director for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the largest, most complex, and powerful space telescope ever built and successfully launched into space.
“Our team was responsible for the vehicle, spacecraft, the integration and testing, and for delivering it to our NASA partner for launch,” says Lo.
Altering Humankind’s Understanding of the Universe
Lo began her work on Northrop Grumman’s engineering team in 2012, working on the James Webb Space Telescope. “Webb is really a game changer —from the discoveries it will make for decades to come, to the very groundbreaking design, development and build,” explains Lo.
The Webb telescope is 100x more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, it was designed to fit inside a rocket and deploy in space— an engineering feat never attempted before. Webb’s design features a primary mirror six-and-a-halfmeters in diameter above a tennis court-size sun shield that blocks overheating. The sun shield helps keep Webb to a frigid temperature of approximately 45 Kelvin or -378.67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lo explains that being it’s an infrared telescope, “it’s designed to look at objects that are very far away in the universe to detect what’s known as first light—the very first stars and first galaxies born in the universe.” With a seat in the control room, Lo was involved in the very early phase of operation. “I had the honor and pleasure of working on the telescope for over ten years and watching it unfold. That was definitely one of the highlights of my life.”
Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in STEM
Lo views herself as a lifelong learner. After high school Lo went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics from Brown University, a Ph.D. in astrophysics from UCLA, and has established a successful career in STEM at Northrop Grumman.
Training the next generation of engineers is the biggest challenge facing the field, says Lo. “We want to ensure that we have lots of engineers and scientists to work on the next challenges that’ll be facing humanity. I think that the more folks we can get interested in science, technology, and engineering, the better.”
Lo notes that there have been significant gains made in recent years in the representation of women in STEM occupations. Most notably, she points to the achievements of women in academia and the aerospace industry to include current Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden.
“Our CEO is a woman and having her be our lead and the face of Northrop Grumman certainly gives myself and other women (cause) to feel like the sky is the limit,” said Lo.