Among the many divisions involved in investigating and sharing knowledge of our infinite and boundless space, the universe, and planets is NASA’s Earth Science Division. The missions carried out by the ESD enlighten us and provide us with a proper understanding of Earth’s interconnected systems, the evolution of our planet, and the life processes involved in the behavior and genesis of our planet’s materials.
It is inspirational and of great honor to witness a female Arab Engineer as a program executive for NASA’s Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters’ Science Mission Directorate. Using her love for science and mathematics, and inspiration from her father to pursue her passions as encouragement that led to her evolutionary career in Aerospace Engineering, Dr. Tahani Amer, one of NASA’s Modern Hidden Figures behind the successful missions and milestones, continues to contribute to the development of projects that govern the evolution of our planet.
As of late, Dr. Tahani Amer has been contributing significantly to the development and governing of the SWOT project at NASA. The SWOT project stands for Surface Water and Ocean Topography, and it is the first satellite mission at NASA that aims to monitor and measure the surface of the Earth’s global water in order to gain an understanding of our water and water accessibility. It is our great honor and pleasure at SASTA to congratulate Dr. Tahani for her evolutionary work and provide enlightenment on her voyage and journey toward her current role in the SWOT mission.
To further elaborate on Dr. Tahani’s role as the program executive for the SWOT project, she works to ensure the whole project’s success. SWOT is the first satellite that will work on monitoring nearly the entirety of Earth’s surface water; from ocean to land, in order to determine the global picture of the water cycle, help address global warming, and the absorption of heat and CO2 by the water. As Dr. Tahani shared during an interview, she shares a personal and memorable connection to the project as her dad worked at the high dam of the Nile River back in the 60s. Fast forward decades later, Dr. Tahani will be the one watching the surface of the Nile River from space.
The journey of Dr. Tahani Amer’s success and growth began when she witnessed her father fixing a car engine in their apartment in Egypt. Her passion for science and mathematics drove her to pursue Aerospace Engineering; however, her father’s inspiration, encouragement, and guidance mainly motivated her to follow her passions up to her role at NASA. At first, when her plans to attend Medical School in Egypt were deterred, she got married, had kids, and moved to the US. Despite her previous lack of English-speaking capabilities, she continued to pursue Engineering courses while caring for her children and obtained a two-year associate degree in science. In due course, Dr. Tahani Amer concluded and achieved her undergraduate studies at Old Dominion University, where she specialized in Mechanical Engineering. During her undergraduate studies, Dr. Tahani completed an internship at NASA working on computational fluid dynamics, which inspired her to pursue and accomplish a Master’s degree at Old Dominion University focusing on Aerospace Engineering. As for her doctoral degree research, it highlighted NASA missions’ risk factors.
During her time interning at NASA working on the Computational Fluid Dynamics project (CFD), Dr. Tahani Amer obtained experience that granted her an opportunity to join further projects at NASA, focusing on pressure conducting wind tunnels and thermal sensitive paint experiments for the Aeronautic Research efforts at NASA. Moreover, she proceeded to invent and patent a system that measures thin films’ thermal conductivity. She presently works as a member of the Independent Program Assessment Office and was appointed as a program executive at NASA’s headquarters in Washington DC in the Science Mission Directorate.
Such an inspirational and highly influential journey for Dr. Tahani Amer gained her awards on her road to success. In 2014, she was awarded the NASA Public Service Award due to her dedication to enhancing NASA’s public awareness and motivating historically marginalized people to pursue science. Furthermore, in 2022, Dr. Tahani Amer received an honoring from the US Council of Muslim Organizations for her scientific contributions.
Dr. Tahani’s aforementioned background and accomplishments are highly influential and motivate young women and girls in the Arab community to pursue their passions for science. During an interview shedding light on women at NASA, Dr. Tahani Amer stated that she seeks to share her experiences, influence younger generations to chase their dreams, and further educate people by devoting a portion of her time to volunteering in community service governed by NASA programs. These include Engineering Week, Diversity Day, “Day of Caring”, Speakers Bureau, and science clubs after school. She continued to discuss women in Islam in 2011 at Old Dominion University during Peace week, where she had been a guest speaker at the Annual Luncheon for the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, addressing the speech to state representatives, university presidents, and newly enrolled students. Furthermore, Dr. Tahani’s influential print is highlighted by including her profile on a NASA Poster for outreach activity for Women in Aerospace and on a college-level calculus book.
Dr. Tahani Amer’s extraordinary accomplishments in the scientific community will continue to inspire and motivate young women in the Middle East and the Arab region to aspire and strive for growth in science.