I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to use “dudette” or “chick” for the female portion of this segment. I guess “chick” can be considered more derogatory, so we’ll go with “dudette” this week. I want to know what you folks think.
This week’s dudette is someone nobody has probably heard of, unless you follow the space program closely. She is an accomplished scientist and neurobiologist, holding a M.Sc, a PhD, and an MD. She won NASA’s Space Medal for her work on STS-42 aboard Discovery. Currently, she works as a business consultant, applying her life skills to the business world. She is:
Dr. Bondar began her journey through life in Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, where she was born. She took her B.Sc in zoology and agriculture from the University of Guelph, then earned a M.Sc in experimental pathology from Western, then a Ph.D in neurobiology from UofT, and finally a MD from McMaster. So she spent like 13 years in university alone, pretty much owning every branch of medicine as she went.
So, not content with holding every possible degree in medicine available on this earth, Dr. Bondar decided…let’s fucking go to space and be the first neurologist in orbit. So she joined the Canadian Space Agency and was promptly referred to NASA as a payload specialist, leading the first International Microgravity Laboratory Mission, dealing with all sorts of cool biology stuff. She spent 8 days in orbit on Discovery. For reference, Discovery was made of leftover parts after Challenger blew up, which makes her the redheaded stepchild of space shuttles.
She never flew in space again, but that’s okay, because she became even more awesome: Dr. Bondar became the head of Space Medicine at NASA for 10 years. I don’t even know what space medicine is, but damn, she was head of it. And it sounds awesome on a resume. Apparently she developed techniques now used at Harvard, so, it can’t be that bad.
What I do know is that, while being head of Space Medicine, Dr. Bondar, as the first Canadian woman in space, became a huge influence to thousands of people of my generation. She proved that the final frontier is accessible to Canadians of any gender, and has shown an excellence in every aspect of her professional life.
Since retiring from NASA, Dr. Bondar has become a business consultant and motivational speaker. I can’t imagine anyone more inspiring than a woman who beat up medical school for 13 years, rode a rocket into space, and has since been inducted into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, and had 5 schools in Canada named after her.
Dr. Bondar, for me, was rather inspiring when I was 12 or so. The appearances I saw on TV were very humble, but she was so awesome. It didn’t rub off (the humbleness), but it sure has made me think about how anyone can really do…anything.
And so, Dr. Roberta Bondar is the Dudette of the Week…for being fucking amazing.