Aligarh: For Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) alumna, Dr Hashima Hasan, Program/Discipline Scientist at the NASA, USA, the fascination with space science began when she watched the Sputnik launch, stargazing a clear night sky offering an engrossing display of celestial bodies at her home town in Lucknow in 1957.
“I was a little girl back then, but the spectacular satellite launch made me eager to follow every success and failure in the newspaper. I clearly remember the day man landed on the moon,” said Dr Hashima in her interview to the NASA STEM Stars.
The work at NASA is dynamic, challenging and energizing and my journey to become a space scientist began after a post graduate degree in Nuclear Physics at the Aligarh Muslim University, reminisced Dr Hashima.
She said that the student life at AMU from 1968 to 1973 and the academic credentials gained at the university helped her attain a prestigious scholarship to further pursue higher studies in Nuclear Science at the University of Oxford. She also attended Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai for a post-doc and worked at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai before reaching the United States on a US Council Fellowship.
“Later in life, I worked at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, writing the simulation software for the optics of the Hubble Space Telescope and its science instruments, using it to analyse the optical error of Hubble after launch,” she shared in the interview.
Dr Hashima recalled that as the Optical Telescope Assembly Scientist, it was her job to keep the telescope in the best focus until a fix could be installed.
“Then I was ready to achieve my dream of working directly for NASA. An opportunity arose in 1994 when a job for a Visiting Senior Scientist was advertised. Although it was a two-year job, I found working at NASA Headquarters so exhilarating and rewarding that I stayed on,” she said adding that NASA’s space science program gives her the opportunity to lead cutting edge science, work with world class scientists and write research papers on astronomy.
Hearken back; Dr Hashima said that like many Indians at that time, she landed at the shores of New York with her university degrees, her wits and a leap of faith in the promises of the New World.
I worked hard and gave this land all I had, and this great nation paid me back in spades; but it all started at AMU, she emphasized.