Mirela Souza de Abreu
What do you do?
I am doing a master's in Space Studies. This means I am studying about space under seven different aspects: engineering (my background), science, policy and law, humanities, applications, management and business, and human performance in space. This gives me a broad, but at the same time, deep knowledge about the space sector. However, I am focused on human spaceflight, which is my true passion.
Why did you choose this field?
Space has always been part of my life. I thought about studying astronomy when I was young, but eventually decided to go for aerospace engineering. After I graduated, I felt a bit lost not knowing exactly what I would like to pursue, as I wanted to do something that would inspire me every day. This is when I visited the Adler Planetarium, in Chicago, and saw their exhibits. The first one was about the Hidden Figures, and it ignited my fire as a woman in the space sector. Seeing them being recognized by their incredible effort and contribution to humanity reaching the Moon was truly inspirational. After that, I walked over to the Apollo 13 exhibit, and as I gazed over every single item and story of that mission I knew I wanted to take part in bringing humanity back to the Moon, and taking us even further than we have ever been.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
There are two achievements I am particularly fond of. First, I would like to tell my younger self that my dream of working for NASA would come in sooner than I ever thought. I would tell myself that if I try my best and take the risks, I would be able to do an internship there before I even graduated in engineering and that this would open so many doors for a future I am still discovering. The second one is more personal, yet space-related. I met Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step on the Moon. For my younger self, I would tell me to dare to dream even the things I judge impossible, either on my professional or personal life.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I believe it is very important to give back to society and to help us grow and thrive. For me, every discipline has its own ways of contributing to it, but I chose STEM as my path. I love the idea of solving issues, of developing and uncovering new things that will take humanity to a new level. I see STEM as a dor that leads me to infinite other doors, and I have the opportunity to open them and discover new ways to develop our future.
Best advice for next generation?
Be inspired by the other girls in STEM. At each one of their accomplishments, celebrate! We need to hold each other up and push us through every challenge, so we can reach further.
I have learned in my life that you cannot get too far on your own, and it takes a village to change the world. Having amazing women around me is what has taken me this far and it is what is going to take me to where I want to be. I am constantly inspired by my girlfriends and I have learned so much about my own potential with them. So hold on to each other, motivate each other, and lift each other up. We are stronger and better when we are together.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
"Amai para entendê-las! Pois só quem ama pode ter ouvido capaz de ouvir e entender estrelas" (Olavo Bilac - Brazilian poet)
It means: Love to understand them! Because only those who love can have ears capable of listening and understanding stars.