Guyanese woman ‘reaching for the stars’ as a NASA researcher

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US-based Guyanese Keanna Jardine will soon join a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) research team to study the OSIRIS-Rex samples at Arizona State University.

In an emotional interview with the News Room on Friday, the Planetary Scientist recounted her journey from Durban Street, Lodge, and Georgetown to the United States of America, where she has faced challenges and prevailed beyond her own expectations.

At 10 years old, Jardine migrated to the United States of America with her parents,  Anthony Jardine and Osnah Jardine. There she completed her middle and high school education before advancing to Adelphi University and then the University of Central Florida where she got her Master’s and PHd in Physics, with a concentration in Planetary Science.

NASA’s OSIRIS REx spacecraft

“Growing up in Guyana I’ve always, you know looked at the stars in my grandmother’s yard so that inspired my journey and interest in what I’m doing.

“Living in Guyana you don’t see a path to these career opportunities and so when I moved, my goal was not to focus on astronomy, physics, or planetary science at all but as I moved through my studies, opportunities arise and let me full circle back to what my initial interest was growing up in Guyana,” Jardine said.

Planetary science focuses on solar system bodies and the atmospheres, surfaces and interiors of planets. The first U.S. mission to collect a sample from an asteroid, will return to Earth in September; Jardine will be part of the team studying the sample.

Jardine was part of an exchange student programme and went to China to study for two months before she returned to the US where she was part of a Bridge Programme which is designed for young people from underrepresented minority communities with an interest in science and technology. She said these were all stepping stones for her.

As it goes for many successes, Jardine’s journey was not always easy. She explained that she was always a part of the STEM programmes which has created many opportunities for her but it also has many challenges.

Keanna studying a rock sample

Notably, she is the first black woman to have graduated from the university with a PHd in physics. This is significant because it is the second largest school in America. She said that being the trailblazer in this context, she has realised that there is more that must be done to ensure that underrepresented minority groups have similar opportunities.

During her sophomore year at college, her mother died in a car crash during a visit to Guyana. The family never got justice following the accident but for Jardine, this was her defining moment.

“The biggest challenge was losing my mom. She died here in Guyana, that was a challenge then and it still is now.

“I had to push and that same professor really held on to me and said “you’re going to finish” and my dad was a big supporter. He said all I want you to do is finish College. I ended up pushing through and even passed that…It is a realisation of how far we still need to go. Being a woman, being black in America, there’s a lot of obstacles that we have to overcome to even be where we need to be,” Jardine said.

With the support of a professor who encouraged her to move out of her comfort zone and pursue studies in planetary science and her family, she was able to graduate and secure her spot with NASA.

“You have to push and find opportunities, don’t put yourself in a box. You have to search and find… when you want something you have to go for it,” Jardine advises.

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2 Comments
  1. Lynden Mona says

    this is what associated to bring success, in all sphere

  2. Patricia Pierre says

    Congratulations to you Keanna for the bold step you have taken.The choice of your career is not a challenging one therefore there is less competition. Do keep up the good work as you move on from strength to strength.

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