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Q&A Jun 24, 2022

Influencing Current, Future Space Exploration: A Q&A with Jordyn-Marie Dudley

Find out why STEAM education is so important to Project Manager and Planetary Geochemist Jordyn-Marie Dudley.

Q&A with Jordyn-Marie Dudley Jacobs Planetary Geochemist and Project Manager, NASA Marshall Space Center

For International Women in Engineering Day 2022 we’re excited to bring you a series of interviews with some incredible #OurJacobs women from around the world. In this article meet Project Manager and Planetary Geochemist Jordyn-Marie Dudley and learn how she got to where she is today, why she was attracted to a career in STEAM and what she thinks is the best part of working at Jacobs. ?

Let's talk with Jordyn-Marie:

Tell us what you’re working on these days.

I’m leading a study that compares different techniques to measure hydrogen in minerals of astromaterials, tested with samples of Martian meteorites. This study was funded by a Jacobs innovation grant and will help us determine the most suitable technique for our research looking at the evolution of water in the solar system. These analyses will ultimately be used to estimate interior water contents on Mars!

What led you to this point on your career path?

I started my journey in STEAM with the support of my parents, in a small city, as a first-generation scholar. Eventually, I left my hometown to complete my bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at Boston University with plans to apply for medical school. However, after realizing medical school wasn’t for me, I changed direction and took a year away from school to explore my overlapping interests in chemistry and geology.

Through some post-college work/volunteer experience, I learned this combination was a much better fit for me, my interests and my skillset, and decided to pursue a master’s degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences at Wesleyan University. At Wesleyan I was able to concentrate my studies in planetary science and I developed a graduate thesis studying hydrogen in meteorites that was funded by a NASA Space Grant Graduate Research Fellowship. I received my master’s degree in 2018 after traveling to Houston to present my research and joined Jacobs as a planetary geochemist a few months later.

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEAM?

It was a combination of having a fantastic high school chemistry teacher and my drive to learn. I enjoy being a student and a career in STEAM allows me to be a student on the job.

Tell us about a memorable project you’ve worked on that has helped build a brighter future.

The projects we contribute to in our department are defining what we know about the planets in our solar system, and directly influence and support current and future space exploration. It feels surreal and exciting to work on these teams and to be exposed to mission development and mission science. Laboratories that currently host returned samples from the moon, comets and solar wind, and will host samples from asteroids, Mars and more, are located within steps of my office.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my career is to maintain flexibility within my plans. Thus far, a significant amount of my growth has been the result of exploring work outside of my comfort zone and being open to opportunities outside of my “career plan.” When I come across an opportunity, the first thing I’m thinking — very much like a scientist — is, “What can I learn and apply from this?”

“The projects we contribute to in our department are defining what we know about the planets in our solar system, and directly influence and support current and future space exploration. It feels surreal and exciting to work on these teams and to be exposed to mission development and mission science. Laboratories that currently host returned samples from the moon, comets and solar wind, and will host samples from asteroids, Mars and more, are located within steps of my office.”

Jordyn-Marie Dudley

Jordyn-Marie Dudley

Jacobs Project Manager and Planetary Geochemist

Proudest career moment?

My proudest career moment was delivering a series of invited presentations to the middle schools in my hometown, which included the middle school that I attended. It was a really cool moment for me to get to talk to students that were sitting in the same classrooms that I once did. Even though I had a strong support system at home, I didn’t know any professionals in STEAM that weren’t my teachers when I was growing up. I’m proud that I can now be a mentor for other students with a similar experience.

People would be surprised to know that I…

I am also an artist and spent six years decorating wedding cakes in between programs and during the summers in college. I minored in visual art during my undergraduate degree, and my next-door neighbor owned a wedding cake studio… she needed an artist and I needed summer work. I ended up working on cakes that have been featured in multiple wedding magazines.

I also had no desire to work in space science as a kid — I get this question a lot. It wasn’t until I had direct work experience that I realized space science was something I could do professionally.

What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?

The exposure that I get to exploration, mission operations and space research is the most entertaining part of my job. My colleagues support the rovers on Mars, are on the?Mars 2020 and OSIRIS-REx mission teams, train astronauts, study lunar samples, meteorites, impact craters and more. But the most enjoyable part of being part of #OurJacobs is interacting with K-12 students and getting to be the STEAM mentor that I needed as a first-generation college student.

About the interviewee

Jordyn-Marie Dudley

Jacobs Project Manager and Planetary Geochemist Jordyn-Marie Dudley works within the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) division. Jordyn-Marie is a Connecticut native turned Houstonian, who studies space rocks and restores mid-century furniture.

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