I recently heard one of the best career stories I have heard in a very long time on the Story Collider podcast. It’s a real stellar collision – so many of Larissa Zhou’s interests and training and expertise and character come together in her story – which inspired me to reach out to our community.
Let’s hear your stories of cosmic connections.
Click here to listen to Larissa’s story (and a story from a dear storytelling friend of mine from D.C. Adam Ruben).
In Larissa’s case, her career spark came watching the movie Armageddon as a kid when she just knew that she wanted to pursue a career as an astronaut (she says in her story that every kid felt the same way, but I am here to say: “not everyone!!!”) So, she begins her studies as a physicist with a minor in Social Anthropology, but it didn’t feel quite right. She had always had a passion for cooking, and found an intersection of food and science working as a food scientist for seven years, during which time she spent her free time rock climbing. When she started hearing about NASA and Space X’s plans to have people in space for longer and longer periods of time, she thought about the freeze-dried meals she would eat when she was backpacking, and she thought:
“Do they expect people to eat freeze‑dried meals for five years straight? And if not, what other new technologies can we invent that makes food tastier but still fits within the extreme requirements of space flight?”
The rest of her story is about how she made a pot that would boil rigatoni in space, despite everyone telling her that it couldn’t be done (you should hear the audience burst into spontaneous applause when she talks about getting funded directly by NASA, despite her professor telling her they wouldn’t be interested). I love the way she tells the story, including how food science departments tell her that they can’t help her because they don’t have the aerospace engineering skills and how aerospace engineering departments didn’t have the food skills to support her. She found support in a mechanical engineering program, and you can just see how she brings to them the perfect embodiment of an intersection of skills, interests, passions, vision, and determination to see things through.
What are the stellar collisions in your career story?
What problems are you being called to solve?
What constellation of gifts do you bring?
We want to hear these stories!
We want to help you create them!!