I also really loved the episode where I met Dick Rutan, a world-renowned test pilot
who flew the first nonstop flight around the world. He told me what it
was like to complete this incredible milestone in aviation and then took me for a
spin in an experimental aerobatic airplane that his brother, Burt Rutan, who is also
famous in the world of aviation, had designed.
Last year I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal Studios with
a West Virginia astronaut, Jon McBride. He showed me how the various g-forces you
experience on amusement park rides are similar to the forces you feel when you
launch into space and orbit the Earth.
This year I went hunting for meteorites in Arizona with a professional meteorite
hunter, Geoff Notkin. We used metal detectors to search for them (because most
meteorites have a higher percentage of iron in them). Geoff helped me find
one of my own, so now I have a meteorite from the asteroid belt in my collection!
Why is it important to get more kids involved in space science?
I think students should pursue science and engineering because, for one, it’s
fun to understand how nature and the universe work. But I would also argue
that you can do cooler things as a student if you pursue a science or engineering
major. There are also funds targeted toward science students for internships,
research stipends, scholarships and more. It’s a great way to travel
the world doing interesting work — and get paid to do it.
What's next for you?
I was selected as a field correspondent for “Bill Nye Saves the World,” a Netflix
series that will be released April 21. I’ve completed filming, and while I can’t
talk much about it yet, we delve into a range of science topics that will
be pretty fascinating for everyone (even non-science nerds)! Unlike Bill’s first
big show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” this show will be more for adults, although
I'm sure kids will love it, too (who doesn't love Bill Nye?). The series will
feature a ton of guest stars, fun comedy bits and other correspondents including
YouTube star Derek Muller and Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss.
I recently started dabbling in YouTube work as a guest science writer and host for
Also, I'm working on a children’s chapter-book series (the "Ada Lace" series) that
I'm really excited about. It features a female heroine, Ada Lace, who loves
building gadgets and gizmos. She’s from West Virginia and recently moved to
San Francisco. Ada uses her techie skills to build robots and works with her
best friend to solve mysteries and challenges in their lives. The books, which
are available to pre-order on Amazon now, will be published by Simon &
Schuster and appear in bookstores around the world in the fall.
When did you fall in love with science and, specifically, space exploration and
My story with science is different than most of my friends and others I’ve met in
the space industry. I wasn’t one of those kids who wanted to be an astronaut at
a young age. I was just good at math – and liked it. In high school [Morgantown
High School] my teachers told me that a good career for a student interested in
mathematics would be engineering, so I pursued it in college and absolutely fell
in love with it.
While at WVU, I learned about the NASA Space Grant Consortium – a program that offers
college students lots of opportunities for student fellowships, research and K-12
outreach. I jumped right in and took advantage of all the great things available
through the space industry. One of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life
is fly on the Vomit Comet – a plane that creates a microgravity environment for
the people flying inside – and it was absolutely free to students involved in this
Also, through my summer engineering internships, I was able to travel to different
facilities in Ohio, California, D.C., Texas, Mexico – even China – all because
I was pursuing this amazing career in science and engineering.
Who are some of your mentors – and how did they influence you?
I think the greatest single asset at WVU is its professors. The West Virginia NASA
Space Grant director, Dr. Jaridi, and my engineering professors Dr. John Kuhlman
and Dr. Victor Mucino made an incredible impact on my career. They were all extremely
knowledgeable about not only their course subjects, but all the opportunities available
– helping me apply for various scholarships, internships and fellowships. Without
their help, guidance and thoughtful recommendation letters, I wouldn’t be where
I am today.
You earned both the Goldwater Scholarship (for talented students in science and
math) and the Truman Scholarship (for exceptional work in public service) during
your undergraduate years at WVU. How did those awards aid you on your journey?
That validation was the first evidence that I could compete academically on a national
stage. I was told by other students that “no one ever gets those scholarships,
so don’t waste your time.” So when that didn’t turn out to be the case, it gave
me confidence to pursue other challenges in life. It taught me not to be afraid
to go after seemingly impossible things, because sometimes they might just work
out. It’s what enabled me to apply for grad school at MIT, where I completed my
master’s degrees in aeronautics and astronautics and another one in technology
and policy. This ultimately led me to do a research stint at Harvard. Eventually
all of these experiences helped me land my TV show, “Xploration Outer Space.”
How did the show ‘Xploration Outer Space’ come about?
West Virginia University actually had a hand in that, too, because when I was there
the University was producing videos with various students to promote their colleges
– and they selected me to help with the College of Engineering video. My executive
producer at Steve Rotfeld Productions saw it (and some amateur videos I had done)
on YouTube and just happened to be looking for a young woman with a strong background
in aerospace who had a good on-camera presence. They literally just e-mailed me
after graduation and said “Would you like to be the host of an aerospace show for
kids?” And of course, I was like, “Yeah, that sounds amazing.”
Where do you film your show?
I am based in San Francisco, but we literally travel all around the country to film
on location. I’m traveling about every other week – Florida, Texas – even back
home to West Virginia.
How do you come up with ideas for the show?
As one of the producers, I seek out topics that are interesting scientifically but
also really visual and entertaining. Over the past decade I’ve made a lot of friends
in the aerospace industry, so I often reach out to them and discuss ideas and concepts.
It’s great to be in front of the camera, but it is even more rewarding to be the
creator of what gets shown. I work with a great team of writers, editors and other
producers who help create a show that we’re really proud of.
What age group and demographic are you targeting?
In the U.S. we have some 550,000 viewers who watch the show each week. We cater our
shows to students in high school and college, but kids as young as 6 contact me
to tell me how much they like the show, especially when they see episodes about
searching for aliens or traveling to Mars.
What do parents tell you about the show?
One of the more interesting things I hear from parents of young girls is that they
are thrilled that their kids are talking about science and space travel – and,
just as important, that they have a fun female role model talking about science.
But I also hear from parents of young boys who say [their child says]: “I want
to have a girlfriend who’s smart like Emily when I grow up.” It’s not the type
of sentiment I expected to hear when I started this show, but it’s certainly an
interesting outcome! I love that my executive producer wanted a female to host
the show. I think that’s just so important for both little girls and little boys.
How long do you plan to continue hosting the show?
We are already in Season 4, and that is the focus. The fact that the show keeps getting
picked up year after year is remarkable. Most pilots of this nature get canceled
after the first season so our goal is to keep continuing to come up with interesting
topics and creative ways to showcase space adventures.