Name: Zoe Learner
Job Title: Athena Science Team member
Hometown: Flagstaff, Arizona
B.S. Oklahoma University
Graduate student at Cornell University
"I was inspired by my grandmother's work on the Apollo program's lunar rover, and my mom, a teacher, has been my life-long mentor. As a kid I was only interested in science and math, but my mom taught me that being a good scientist, or being good at anything, meant being well rounded."
Zoe is an avid sports fan. "I love football, WNBA basketball, NASCAR racing and the Yankees!" She also loves music: "I played the clarinet in high school marching band, and played the violin and the piano when I was younger." Listening to rock music is one of her favorite pastimes.
Although she loves sports, she was "never any good at any type of 'sport' playground games or activities". She prefers to jog on nature trails, lift weights, and hike in the mountains. "I'm not a stereotype, and you certainly do not have to be to succeed in reaching your dreams, either."
How she became interested in her profession:
Zoe has been interested in planets, space travel, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life for as long as she can remember. Her excitement for Mars grew gradually throughout her teen years.
"As a young teen, I lived in Flagstaff, Arizona. There I spent a lot of time at the Lowell Observatory." Her fascination with Mars didn't start until high school in the years leading up to the Pathfinder mission. "I attended the Space Settlement Design Contest at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where I worked with other students to 'design' a space station to orbit Mars. I was hooked!
What she likes about her field of work:
Zoe appreciates the diversity of the group working on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission. "There are people on this team from throughout the world, so you have the opportunity to interact with people of different backgrounds and cultures."
She is also excited to see the images of Mars that the rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, will send down. "From orbit, these landing sites appear to be unlike any of the previous landing sites of Viking and Pathfinder. It's the thrill of seeing something that no one has ever seen before that really lights a fire in my belly and makes my heart beat twice as fast as it should."
To Zoe, "becoming a scientist feels more like destiny than a conscious decision".