Women in STEAM Spotlight: Dominique Butler

An astronomy student discusses her story of tenacity and inspiration


To further encourage women’s involvement and interest in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Architecture, Math) arena, Glendale College’s annual Maker Faire will host a “Women in STEAM” speaker series, during which multiple females will speak of their experiences.

Dominique Butler, one of the panelists at the event, is a full-time student, pursuing a career in astronomy and communications. She hopes to one day become a space science communicator within the popular culture. In addition, she is actively involved in educational outreach with numerous organizations and schools. She finds inspiration in the fact that she gets to choose her own path and form a career like no other, bridging the gap between pop culture and sciences.

To understand what makes a woman scientist, El Vaquero asked a few questions in regards to Butler’s encounters and participation in the field. Here are her responses:

Q: How did you get into your current career?

A: I got really lucky, it sort of all fell into place once I went back to college. I changed my major to Astronomy, and decided early on that I wouldn’t be going into research. Most of my friends work in entertainment, so once I realized that I could take what I was learning in Astronomy and communicate it to our culture, my career path became clear.

Q: What has been the greatest challenge in your work? What about the greatest triumph?

A: The greatest challenge has actually been figuring out how to manage school, an Ambassadorship with NASA, and then finding ways to work and communicate space science to whatever platform I’m given. Creating a career as a space science communicator has been something I’ve had to figure out as I go along, and has constantly surprised me. I’m working towards having a space science children’s show, so each step of the way has been filled with successes and failures, or lessons learned. To be honest, my biggest triumph is still being on the path to finishing my education and creating my dream career. Every little success along the way is a triumph to me, it hasn’t been easy but I feel really lucky to be doing this work.

Q: What does the average day look like for you?

A: Everyday for me is different. I’m preparing to transfer to Harvard Extension School to finish my degree online this summer, so my schedule is more open to fill with the work I do as a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador. I go and speak to kids in schools all over Los Angeles about NASA and space exploration. They’re obsessed with black holes and of course, aliens. I recently completed an internship at the Human Rights Watch advocating for children’s rights. Children deserve the best of everything we have, so my work revolves around finding a way to make sure I’m bringing that to light.

Q: Can you give your top three tips for students entering STEM?

A: Know that you belong here and your perspective is needed. Don’t let anyone tell you or make you feel otherwise. Get a good tutor. Eat, sleep, drink lots of water and surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you.

Q: Is there anything you want us to know about you in particular?

A: At this point, I’m refusing to take no for an answer. There is more than one way to get to where you want to be and realizing that my path isn’t going to look like anyone else’s has been liberating. I’ve learned that everything I’ve perceived as a setback has actually always worked to my advantage. I feel really thankful to be able to combine my love for Astronomy, the opportunity to work with children, and my passion for social justice into my education and career. As for something not too many people know about me,  if I could come back in another lifetime, I’d be a Quantum Physicist. I can’t think of any job cooler than that.