Ever had your plan all figured out only to have it to go COMPLETELY different? Yeah, me too. This week features Dr. Michelle Skoorka E CIV ONRA,03R. I'll be honest. I'm not quite sure what all of those letters stand for. I was scared I might need a new clearance level or we'd maybe have to cut our thumbs and be blood sisters. For the record, I'd love to be related to her. Her tattoos can intimidate, and her work commands a high level of respect. However, when I meet her for the first time in person, I find humble kindness wrapped up in a 5 ft stature, challenging hair and makeup to tame her "Jewish afro".
Whether she's talking to students at DoD STEM conventions about internship opportunities, mentoring young women about their careers, or designing launch systems for submarines, you will see the passion she has about what she does. That wasn't always the case. You see, her dream job isn't possible. Michelle Skoorka grew up in Brooklyn, New York. A latch key kid, the TV was her babysitter. Captain Kirk, and astronaut Tony Nelson of "I Dream of Jeannie" were huge influences in her life.
"Growing up I wanted to be Captain Kirk. Then I found out there were no starships or starship captains. Everything was a disaster! I then went to plan B. I knew I could be an astronaut and go into space. I just figured that was the closest thing to a starship captain. I even used to sign my name "Michelle Skoorka FNASAA". Which stood for "Future NASA Astronaut". That was all great until I realized I had a terrible motion sickness problem. I couldn't be an astronaut. So then came plan B.5. I'm going to work for or with NASA."
She realized that NASA wouldn't hire her on her good looks and charm so she applied to the Bronx High School of Science. It was a 75 minute commute, one way, to attend. There was much determination, such big plans, but music happened. In addition to science and engineering at this magnet school, Michelle found punk rock. With a job at a Tower Records, she didn't apply to college. A year or so later she realized that while her job was fun, it wasn't meaningful. She needed more.
FIVE COLLEGES later, she had a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Then just one to get her masters. She went to work for the Navy, designing launch systems for submarines. Building her way up to an office with a view, getting her doctorate, she now also works with ONR, the Office of Naval Research. Her job there is to work with high school and college kids in internship programs, and also to run laboratory research centers at naval warfare centers. Guess where many of these programs and centers are. You guessed it! NASA.
Hearing Michelle tell about all of this, interviewing her during her photoshoot, I'm in awe of her perseverance and overall character. I also know that you don't get to be that kind of a person without a struggle. That office with a view doesn't come without a hard climb to the top. This week we will be telling you all about Dr. Skoorka's source of strength, some of her greatest moments, and what advice she'd give to a younger generation. I can't wait to tell you more about this ordinary women with such an extraordinary life.