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Helen Ling, Changemaker

p 13728a helen ling
p 13728a helen ling
Helen Ling, an Asian woman, looks over her shoulder at the camera. Her arm is resting on the back of the chair she's sitting on. In front of her are several large computers.

Helen Ling, seen here in a photo from Feb. 16, 1973, was influential in the inclusion of women in STEM positions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After majoring in Mathematics at the University of Notre Dame—the only woman to do so at the time—Ling joined her brother in working at JPL. She became a supervisor for the computing group in the 1960s, a team who was responsible for performing trajectory calculations.

Ling encouraged women within the computing group to attend night school to earn degrees that would allow them more professional opportunities within JPL. A pioneer for women’s rights in the workplace, Helen Ling was so admired in the computing group that those who worked under her lovingly referred to themselves as “Helen’s girls.” Many of “Helen’s girls” went on to become computer scientists and engineers within JPL thanks to the mentorship and guidance of Helen Ling.

Throughout her time at JPL, Ling developed software for the IRAS, Magellan, TOPEX/Poseidon, and Mars Observer missions, and retired in 1994.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Source: nasa.gov