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X-STEM – Extreme STEM Symposium

Ms. BlakeBullock

Nominated by:
Blake Bullock 2014 X-STEM speaker Northrop Grumman Foundation logo
Informing the Public of the Far-Reaching Impact of the James Webb Space Telescope


Blake Bullock has harbored a burning interest in space -- particularly the structure and evolution of the universe -- since the age of 6. It's little wonder that today her dreams and talents in the field of astrophysics have found a home at Northrop Grumman where the world's next-generation space telescope replacing Hubble is being developed for NASA.

Says Blake unequivocally: "I came to Northrop Grumman to be a part of the most ambitious astrophysics mission ever attempted by NASA or the world: the James Webb Space Telescope."

Blake is the Civil Air and Space Campaign Director for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, CA, where she is responsible for leading sector business campaigns to address Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems business priorities within civilian government agencies and commercial customers. Prior to her current assignment, Bullock served as James Web Space Telescope (JWST) Campaign Lead as well as Risk Manager and Systems Engineer for the James Webb Space Telescope Program at Northrop Grumman.

Highly knowledgeable of the contemporary issues and challenges facing space exploration, astrophysics and engineering -- and equally talented in communicating these issues to the non-scientist community -- she is ideally suited for her role in promoting NASA's Webb Telescope among decision makers in the world of business, education, news media and the public.

What's more, she especially loves this role as "a bridge" and facilitator. "I enjoy interfacing with all of the communities I work with in science, technology, public policy and the media," she says. "In the long term, I hope to continue to work in this bridge zone, developing my strengths in all areas, and helping to facilitate the very important work that lies ahead of us in science as a country and as an international community."

The promise of the Webb Telescope is not only impressive from a space exploration standpoint, but also for what it means to have a positive impact on the future of technological innovation and high-tech workforce viability in the United States, says Blake. On the telescope project, engineers at Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector are leading NASA's industry team to develop, by the end of the decade, Webb's capability to be launched and collect images and measurements of the universe as it appeared a few million years after the Big Bang -- about 13.7 billion years ago.

"More than 1,200 skilled people across the country are involved in helping to build the Webb Telescope, representing precisely the American workers our country needs to nurture," says Blake. "For example, master welders at JPW Companies, a small family-owned business in Syracuse, N.Y., built the steel structure to hold the telescope's mighty mirrors. This project represented the most high-precision job they'd ever undertaken, and helped raise the skill level for their workforce, and perhaps gained the ability for them to market techniques and products to new commercial markets."

Blake has been inspired by the challenge of space and technological discovery ever since her mother signed her up as an official member of the White House's Young Astronauts Council at age 6. "My bulletin board was soon tacked with glossy astronaut photos and Voyager's fly-by images of Jupiter and Saturn," Blake recalls. "By the time I hit middle school, I'd replaced those bulletin-board pictures with the first images from Hubble: extragalactic stellar nurseries, supernova rings and rippling gas clouds in the Orion nebula."

But she wanted to know more, so she pursued high school physics and calculus and a bachelor's degree in astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley. "With these tools, I then wanted to be part of science discovery, so I continued to graduate school to do independent research in astronomy," where she earned her master's degree in Astronomy from Wesleyan University.

She later served as a Presidential Management Fellow at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and in the Pentagon for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Strategic and Space Programs. Prior to this, she lived and worked in New Mexico as a science journalist and Mass Media Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Her professional affiliations include being a member of Women in Aerospace, the Association for Women in Science, and the American Astronomical Society.

What advice would she give young students interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)? "The desire to do it is a big part, but working hard is the biggest part," she says. "We need these STEM skills now more than ever; the problems and the questions grow with every new discovery. We will be looking to young innovators of the future for answers. "

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