Racial and gender discrimination in hiring practices at NASA hadn’t improved much by the time Christine Darden applied for a position in the late 1960s. Darden, despite her master’s degree in applied mathematics, which qualified her for a position as an engineer, was instead assigned to the segregated female “human computer” pool, the same as numbers of other black female scientists. She approached her supervisor, asking why men with the same education as she had wider opportunities, and gained a transfer to an engineering job in 1973, becoming one of a tiny number of female aerospace engineers at NASA Langley. In this role, she worked on the science of sonic boom minimization, writing computer test programs as well as more than 50 research articles in the field of high lift wing design. In 1983, Darden earned a doctorate, and by 1989 she was appointed to the first of a number of management and leadership roles at NASA, including that of technical leader of the Sonic Boom Team within the High Speed Research Program, as well as director of the Program Management Office of the Aerospace Performing Center in 1999. She worked at NASA until retirement in 2007.
The Blog of Awesome Women / Christine Darden: When You Hear a Sonic Boom, Think of Her