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UT Austin’s Women in Engineering and The Ophelia Project host astronaut Cady Coleman encouraging girls and young women to “Shoot for the Stars”

One of NASA’s most experienced women astronauts, Lt. Col. Catherine “Cady” Coleman, will land in Austin Friday (Nov. 5) to urge girls and young women to “Shoot for the Stars!” in a free public presentation at the The University of Texas at Austin.

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AUSTIN, TexasOne of NASA’s most experienced women astronauts, Lt. Col. Catherine “Cady” Coleman, will land in Austin Friday (Nov. 5) to urge girls and young women to “Shoot for the Stars!” in a free public presentation at the The University of Texas at Austin.

Coleman’s appearance, co-sponsored by the UT Austin Women in Engineering Program and The Ophelia Project, will be at 7 p.m. in the LBJ Auditorium, 26th and Red River. The event coincides with the opening of a three-day, four-state Society of Women Engineers (SWE) conference in Austin. The conference spotlights achieving success in the corporate and high-tech worlds.

“She’s a real, modern-day heroine for girls. She’s a savvy scientist, capable of daring athletic feats, and she’s out there making a difference in the world,” said Kerry Anne Ridley, board chair of The Ophelia Project. “Girls need more role models like Cady. One of our goals is to make sure girls in Austin are exposed to women who are exciting and successful off the runway, movie or TV screen.”

Coleman, who flew with the Space Shuttle Columbia in July, will encourage girls and young women to pursue their dreams in spite of what may seem like insurmountable obstacles. For example, at 5-feet-4-inches and 115 pounds, Coleman is one of the smallest astronauts to fly. But she holds two NASA endurance records in the gyroscope and is specially trained to do repairs outside the shuttle should the need arise.

Coleman was the lead specialist during July’s shuttle mission to deploy the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. This giant telescope will enable scientists to study exotic deep space activity, such as black holes, exploding stars and quasars. Coleman flew alongside Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a space shuttle mission.

Coleman, who also flew a 15-day mission in 1995, has logged more than 500 hours in space. She is NASA’s lead specialist in long-term space flight habitability, including such things as acoustics and living accommodations aboard the station.

Women currently make up about 21 percent of the engineering students at UT. While this is the highest level in UT history, more women need to be recruited to meet the engineering needs of a competitive U.S. economy,” said Sherry Woods, UT Austin Women in Engineering Program director.

“Women have unique opportunities in engineering right now because of the increased need of high-tech industries to find good communicators who can work in teams,” Woods said. “Our program supports the needs of women coming into and staying in engineering, and the need of industries to attract and keep women in the engineering workforce.”

Keynote speaker for the student conference is Sherita Ceasar, SWE national president, at 7 p.m. on Saturday (Nov. 6) at the Omni Hotel in downtown Austin. For more information about SWE, call (512) 471-3657, or visit the web site at http://www.swe.org/SWE/RegionC/conf/Home.htm.

The Ophelia Project is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization founded in Austin in 1996 to mobilize resources for the healthy development of adolescent girls and young women. It provides programs to raise awareness of unhealthy media and cultural messages that undermine girls’ sense of self, facilitates programs and messages that empower girls, and advocates for positive change for girls and young women in the world.

The UT Austin College of Engineering ranks among the top 10 public engineering schools in the United States. With the nation’s third-highest percentage of faculty elected members of the National Academy of Engineering, the College’s 6,000 students gain exposure to the nation’s finest engineering practitioners. The college’s logo, an embellished checkmark used by the first UT engineering dean to denote high quality student work, is the nation’s oldest quality symbol. The college maintains a web site at http://www.engr.utexas.edu/.

For more information, contact Margaret Justus with the Ophelia Project at (512) 327-1243 or the Women in Engineering Program (512) 471-5650. For more information about the NASA event or The Ophelia Project, call (512) 476-3988, or view the web site at http://www.main.org/ophelia/.