Love for outer space propels librarian into NASA role
By Alex Branch
As a child, Debbie Montenegro was the girl who often showed up school in a Yoda, Spock or outer space-themed shirt.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mom had to buy those shirts from the boy’s section because they didn’t make those clothes for girls then,” said Montenegro, Consumer Health Coordinator for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine South Central Region at UNT Health Science Center.
Even as a health outreach coordinator for a five-state region, Montenegro’s affinity for the cosmos remains strong. She recently was named a NASA Solar System Ambassador by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, designating her an expert volunteer who helps share NASA’s latest science and discoveries to inspire communities.
The ambassadorship will allow Montenegro to expand efforts she had already made to help science teachers, librarians, and other informal educators integrate NASA educational material into their classrooms. She will also gain access to select scientific briefings conducted by mission scientists and engineers.
She has combined elements of space and health into a class called Astronaut Health:Science Education Resourcesthat she has taught at five conferences.
“It’s really exciting for someone who loves all things outer space,” Montenegro said. “I’ll be making two presentations at the Johnson Space Center soon and just got accepted to a conference at Kennedy Space Center in the summer.”
The ambassadorship program included a fairly rigorous application and training process. There are several hundred NASA ambassadors nationwide and the opportunity to collaborate with people who share her passion for outer space and learning is exciting, she said.
“It’s kind of like finding your people,” she said with a laugh. “It will be great to see what they are working on and share with them what I have done.”
Gibson D. Lewis Health Science Library at UNTHSC is the designated Regional Medical Library (RML) for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, South Central Region (NNLM SCR).
The NNLM SCR advances the progress of medicine and improves public health through increased access to health information in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
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