‘Missile woman’ guides girls to science

Expert advice: Tessy Thomas, Director General of Aeronautical Systems, DRDO, at a programme at the children’s science congress in the city on Saturday.  

The increased participation of girls in the National Children’s Science Congress is heartening, according to Tessy Thomas, scientist and Director General of Aeronautical Systems, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

She was speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the congress where she interacted with children during a ‘Meet the Scientist’ programme here on Saturday. This year, nearly 60% of the child scientists taking part in the congress are girls.

Scene in Kerala

Ms. Thomas said the percentage of women joining the science stream had increased from some 3% a few decades ago to 15%. This was because of the importance given to science in academic institutions and the science fraternity. Kerala, especially, was supporting innovations in science at the school level, she said. Achievements by women in institutions such as ISRO, DRDO, and CSIR were inspiring girls to take up science. The percentage of women in the DRDO, Ms. Thomas pointed out, too had gone up. The science field, she said, was very challenging and if committed to learning, women could go far. They should persevere, even when required to go the extra mile when faced with something for the first time in the field. One should not let detractors bother them.

Work begins at home

Encouraging girls to study science should begin from home, Ms. Thomas said, pointing out how her family encouraged her interest in science and mathematics.

Visits from Alappuzha, where she lived, to the Thumba rocket launching station spurred her fascination. During her B.Tech., she studied radar systems as an elective, and when the opportunity for M.Tech. in Guided Missiles came around, she grabbed it.

It was at the DRDO Hyderabad missile labs that she worked with the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, later earning the moniker ‘Missile woman.’ Ms. Thomas recounted how he once introduced her to a large audience of students as ‘Missile lady.’

Development of long-range missile Agni IV, she recalled, involved a quantum jump in technology. Till then the scientists had worked with metallic rocket motor casing but with Agni IV, they came up with composite rocket motor for the first time in the country. It was the result of three years of effort and was something she was very proud of, for it gave an advantage in weight reduction for the Agni IV and V missile.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 5:13:24 PM |

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