Choice between Physics and Biology propels Swati to NASA

Choice between Physics and Biology propels Swati to NASA

CHENNAI [Maha Media]: It was the choice between physics and biology that had made all the difference to Indian-born Swati Mohan to pursue her passion in space science at NASA.

Swati, who was part of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission, said her decision to opt to study physics in high school helped to pursue her passion at NASA.

"Physics was easy and biology didnt come naturally to me the internship at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) gave me the opportunities to learn and explore," the guidance, navigation and control systems engineering group supervisor of NASA's JPL, said.

She was speaking at the launch of the #DiasporaDiplomacy held under the aegis of the US Consulate General in Chennai, on Wednesday. US Consul General in Chennai Judith Ravin inaugurated the virtual series.

From enrolling in space camp at NASA to selecting a school to taking up internships, Swati said she was drawn to exploring and learning about other places in the solar system.

Her parents and her family members including her husband were "super supporters" in helping her chase her passion, the mother of two daughters said.

"There are many Indian Americans and Indians working on Mars 2020 and JPL as a whole," she said responding to queries from students and participants.

Asked if the Indian premier space agency ISRO and NASA would take up joint missions in future, Swati replied, NASA and ISRO are collaborating on NISAR (NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite. The ISRO instrument team is at JPL integrating their portion of the instrument with the JPL portion.

"The JPL team will come to India next year to integrate and launch the spacecraft from India," she said and hoped that NASA and ISRO partnership would continue to grow in future.

NISAR is expected to be launched into a near-polar orbit to observe our planet's land and ice-covered surfaces every 12 days over the course of its three-year mission of imaging the earth's land, ice sheets and sea ice.

While responding to a query on whether she faced trouble because of her origin, she replied, "in my career journey I faced more difficulty in being a woman in a male dominated field than being an Indian."

However, she considered herself blessed at "a diverse organisation like JPL which has a lot of diaspora from many different cultures."

Is she missing India and anything in particular? "I especially miss the street food in India so good especially the corn roasted by the vendors," she replied.

Every time she visits India, she ensures a visit to the restaurants here because the food is so much better. She however hastens to add "of course we have good Indian restaurants here (in USA).

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