Helen Hall, University Space Research Association (USRA) associate director for Program Management for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), was recently recognized by SPIE Women in Optics, the international society for optics and photonics, for inclusion in the organization’s 2013-2014 date planner.

SPIE’s Women in Optics group promotes personal and professional growth for women through community building, networking opportunities, and encouraging young women to choose careers in optical tecnology.

For this year’s date planner, SPIE featured 30 prominent women in the optics field, ranging from university professors and research scientists to manufacturing production and sales managers, and an oceanographer. Each profile includes a brief bio and responses to questions regarding who or what inspired each of the women to work in the science/engineering field, what their current job responsibilities are, and the biggest challenge each had to overcome in their respective careers.

“When I first started as an engineer in 1984, there were very few women in the field,” said Hall. “I had to work harder to earn respect and prove that I could do my job as well as any other qualified candidate – male or female. It’s interesting to see how much the technological workforce has changed during the ensuing 30 years. We now have many more female engineers, but we have to continue working to get young women enthused about careers in science and technology.”

Hall works for the Universities Space Research Association of Columbia, Md., which has a contract with NASA to run the observatory’s science operations. SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner carrying a 100-inch telescope that sees the universe in the infrared spectrum while flying at altitudes above 39,000 feet (12km). Hall is responsible for the mission’s science operations budget of approximately $26 million.

Hall obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in thermo-mechanical and energy conversion from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She began her engineering career at the Nevada Test Site designing and later building test beds and containment structures for weapons testing. She served in various management capacities in support of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Experimental Program and later hired on with Los Alamos National Laboratory as project director for line item construction projects.

For more information on SPIE’s Women in Optics, visit: www.spie.org/wio

For More Information

For more information about SOFIA, visit:
NASA SOFIA website • DLR website

For information about SOFIA's science mission and scientific instruments, visit:
SOFIA Science Center website • DSI website

Science Results Archive