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Naia Butler-Craig

Incoming Graduate Research Assistant, Georgia Institute of Technology

And - currently, Computational Physicist, Los Alamos National Labs

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I love how innovative, and unifying STEM is. It encompasses such a vast and diverse group of disciplines and that excites me.

What do you do?

As a PhD Graduate Research Assistant, I will work in the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab at Georgia Tech and conduct research on electric thrusters and other plasma propulsion devices. As a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Labs, I run complex simulations of the particles in Gamma Ray Bursts.

Why did you choose this field?

I knew from a very young age that I was made for STEM. The earliest memory I have of my STEM passion is at age 7 when I drew the underbody of vehicle I was sure could run on oxygen. None of my family members took the STEM route so my fascination really came out of nowhere. It wasn't until 8th grade, when I took a class called Earth-Space Science, that I realized my deep love for space. When I discovered this passion, I decided to look into careers that bridged them all - Science, Engineering, and Space and thus how I found Aerospace Engineering. I made up my mind back then and never looked back.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I think one achievement that I had no idea was possible at such a young age was getting hired by NASA. When I was initially hired as a pathways student, I was only one year into my degree and 18 years old.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love how innovative, and unifying it is. STEM encompasses such a vast and diverse group of disciplines and that excites me. I get to work with people with all kinds of personal and academic backgrounds which is a breeding ground for such dynamic perspectives.

Best advice for next generation?

Never let anyone (including yourself) count you out. Try no matter what.

Inspo quote / fun fact

"When I got to space, I didn't see political divisions, religious divisions or racial divisions. From that perspective, I saw how we are all in this together and if we could just remember that, we could get a lot more done" - Bill Johnson