81 - STEM Sisters

Chi Omegas have long positioned themselves as leaders in the STEM field, “placing scholarship before social obligation” in the most authentic sense. With career titles like microbiologist, chemical engineer, high school math teacher, and data analyst, Chi Omegas are truly in every corner of the STEM field.

Two of our Sisters are so enthralled in it, they’re quite literally out of this world. Kate Rubins and Susan Helms are leaders whose accomplishments and utter love for their STEM careers cannot go unnoticed.

Kate Rubins

Kate Rubins, a Kappa Lambda/UC San Diego, was selected by NASA in 2009 as one of just nine members in the 20th NASA astronaut class. Her training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T38 flight training, and water and wilderness survival training.

Kate Rubins, Kappa Lambda/UC San Diego

On July 6, 2016, Kate blasted into space for the first time and spent the next 115 days living and working on the International Space Station, where she became the first person to sequence DNA in space, all while traveling at 17,500 miles per hour.

When asked by 1947 podcast what she did in her free time while in space she said, “You’re probably going to laugh, but I do experiments! It’s fascinating to be in an environment where the laws of physics have changed. My other hobby has started to be in photography. I went a little crazy last weekend and took over 2000 photos… I’ll make phone calls to family and friends. I read some magazines and newspapers up here. I took my iPad into the cupola here and tucked in the window so I could completely see the Earth and read a magazine last weekend and that was a pretty phenomenal experience.”

When asked what she missed most about Earth she told Cosmopolitan magazine, “I miss the smell and the sound of nature a lot. Just being able to go outside, take a walk, see trees. We’re in a controlled environment, which is truly amazing, the fact that we recycle all of our air and water. But what you do miss is all of those natural resources. The planet is beautiful.”

Kate even read the Chi Omega authored book The Rhino Who Swallowed the Storm, written by Susan Schafer Bernardo, Gamma Beta/UCLA, aloud in the International Space station for a STEM program called Story Time from Space.

In addition to her accolades in space, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from UC San Diego and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University Medical School Biochemistry Department and Microbiology and Immunology Department.

When The Stanford Daily asked what she thinks the future of space exploration looks like she said, “First, there will be some of these long-duration, maybe yearlong or more, missions. Then, you would eventually launch this habitat into a Mars mission. NASA has set the goal of 2033 for a Mars mission. I think designing the infrastructure and the capabilities to take us beyond low-earth orbit will be happening in the next 10 years.”

Kate even makes a note to say, “I think the folks in undergrad and grad school are more of our target team… So look for astronaut applications as they’re coming out!”

Susan Helms

Susan Helms, Special Initiate of Pi Gamma/New Mexico in 1998, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1980. She then launched a career in the Airforce where she climbed the ladder quickly. She was managing the development of a CF-18 flight control system simulation for the Canadian Forces when selected by NASA in January 1990 and became an astronaut in July 1991.

Susan Helms, Pi Gamma/New Mexico

A veteran of five spaceflights, Susan has logged 5,064 hours in space, including a spacewalk of 8 hours and 56 minutes, a world record our Sisters shares with her team member Jim Voss who embarked on the walk with her. Susan eventually reached Lietuneant General status in 2011 before retiring in 2014.

“The pride that Chi Omega Sisters take in a job extremely well done, your sense of duty, and the good works that are performed by the Chi Omega Sisters – and here is the part I really like – you do all of this, this extremely professional work, career jobs but you do it reveling in the fact that you are female and you can go out into a male-dominated world like I have. You can go out there and pretend that you are male to try to fit in, but I am here to tell you, ladies, that this doesn’t work very well. I have tried that early in the years when no one really knew how to integrate women into (what was traditionally) men’s job but they have gotten much smarter at that right now, but I think what I come to realize is that if I am myself as a female and revel in that, the other things that Chi Omega adheres to such as trying to obtain possible jobs, it all falls together. And people respect you for what you do. They don’t focus at all on whether or not you are female, and therefore there is a difference. “