Welcome to Aboriginal Access to Engineering, Queen's University

Tara Williams

Tara Williams
Nation: 
Mohawk
Degree: 
B.Sc. Microbiology and Immunology
Job title: 
Biomedical Flight Controller

Type(s) of Engineering:

Aerospace
Favourite thing: 

"Getting to work on Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions."

Tara Williams went into sciences because she wanted to open as many doors as possible. She would never have guessed that one of those doors would open during a vacation to Russia! In Moscow she met an American doctor who happened to be a Flight Surgeon for NASA. I asked him if they needed any biologists. He told me who to contact and here I am.

Here is in Building #29, NASA's Medical Operations Branch at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas. She also works and trains in several other buildings including Mission Control. Although she is still in training, Ms. Williams is already working on missions because each space shuttle flight takes months, sometimes years of planning.

Her official title is Biomedical Flight Controller but that doesn't tell you much about her job. She actually works with a team of other Flight Controllers, Flight Surgeons and astronauts to make sure medical procedures and/or experiments on shuttle flights (and soon on the International Space Station) will go as smoothly as possible. Before a shuttle mission she may help train astronauts in medical procedures like administering shots. She is also responsible for overseeing and updating a book of procedures which astronauts may have to perform in medical emergencies. During flights she and other Biomedical Flight Controllers, provide support for the Flight Surgeons from a back room called the Multi-Purpose Support Room. We monitor the astronauts heart rates while they are out in space on EVA (space walks), as well as environmental data such as cabin pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. If a medical procedure needs to be performed, we follow along and answer any questions the astronauts may have. We also set up private medical conferences so the Flight Surgeon can talk to the astronauts, and arrange for private family conferences. As Ms. Williams says It's very exciting to work with astronauts and space. Ms. Williams had several interviews at other companies before she got the job at NASA. She says it was discouraging not to get jobs. Now that she has found a job she loves, she has advice for other Aboriginal students trying to decide on a career, Don't settle for anything that you don't want to do. I was working in a grocery store and I hated it, but I had a job so I wasn't looking as hard as I should have been. It's really important not to give up.

Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada

© 2017 Queen's University Aboriginal Access to Engineering. All Rights Reserved.