UNM alumna Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, summarizes her job on her Twitter account, @marsninja, as “I shoot the lasers, pew pew.” Her career isn’t one young girls are traditionally encouraged to follow, but Lanza hopes that will change.
“Three years ago, I was a keynote speaker at a conference, talking about my job at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a planetary scientist who shoots rocks on Mars with a laser. Part of my job involves helping to guide the Curiosity rover to the appropriate targets. After my talk, I was socializing with a small group of other conference attendees when one of them said, ‘Oh, so we’ve got a woman driver on Mars!’ The joke was made by a man and the others assembled – also men – laughed. I didn’t. I just stood there, speechless. I couldn’t believe that he had just made such a tired, outdated (and unfunny) joke…”