NASA provides career launchpad for future engineers

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
3 Min Read

An Indigenous engineering student has reached for the stars, heading to the United States for a once-in-a-lifetime NASA internship.

Tully Mahr is studying engineering at the University of Melbourne and was handpicked as one of five First Nations students to participate in the ongoing 10-week NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory program.

The program is centred on the construction and study of cutting-edge jet propulsion systems, featured in jet engines to propel objects forward using a stream of gas or fluid which creates thrust.

The new cohort is part of Monash University’s National Indigenous Space Academy (NISA), backed by the Australian Space Agency, to provide Indigenous students with more STEM career opportunities.

Ms Marr said she hoped her roots as a Gundungurra woman would help inspire more indigenous students to consider a career as an engineer.

“I am passionate about bridging Indigenous knowledge with advanced engineering concepts, aiming to bring unique perspectives and holistic approaches to aerospace research and development,” she said.

“I am beyond excited to get involved with NISA and continue advocating for careers in STEM for women and Indigenous Australians.”

Monash University’s National Indigenous Space Academy lead Professor Christopher Lawrence said Indigenous Australians have an innovative and influential history in STEM.

“Indigenous Australians are the first scientists, engineers, technologists, mathematicians and doctors,” the Wadjak-Ballardong Noongar man said.

“This is a pathway for Indigenous students to participate in unique NASA and JPL projects such as robotics for the unexplored ocean worlds, robot perception control, artificial intelligence, and path planning, as well as satellite.”

Ms Mahr says being mentored by some of NASA’s best scientists and engineers will get her even closer to fulfilling a childhood dream of working for the space agency.

With a passion for aeronautical engineering, Ms Mahr hoped to learn from those working in the construction of jet propulsion technology.

“I am thrilled to have the chance to learn about their own career paths, what their projects are and what they have studied,” she said.

The 21-year-old is currently interning at NASA’s Pasadena base in California where she is undertaking her research project on Mineralogical Analysis of Compositional Gradients in Hydrothermal Chimneys.

“This basically means researching life forms in the ocean as a way of understanding how life could form on other planetary bodies,” she said.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.