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For release: 08/29/03
Release #: 03-148

Anchorage grad joins NASA's 'Starship 2040' tour of 'the last frontier'

Photo description: Tiffanie Williams

Tiffanie Williams, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, will be among the "crew members" of NASA's traveling Starship 2040 transportation exhibit when it "lands at Matanuska-Susitna College in Palmer, Alaska, Sept. 2.

Photo: Aerospace engineer Tiffanie Williams, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, poses in front of a NASA Space Shuttle display at the US. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA/MSFC)

When NASA's traveling Starship 2040 space transportation exhibit "lands" at Matanuska-Susitna College in Palmer, Alaska, Sept. 2, Tiffanie Williams, a native of Anchorage, will be among its "crew members."

Starship 2040, a futuristic spaceliner mockup that travels inside a 48-foot tractor and trailer, began a 28-day Alaska tour Aug. 22 at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. Williams, a 1995 graduate of A.J. Dimond High School in Anchorage, joins Starship during the exhibit's second Alaska stop, at Matanuska-Susitna College, Sept. 2-6

"I'm excited about coming home to tell people in my native state, especially the kids, about what we're doing to explore space," said the 26-year-old aerospace engineer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "I'll be talking to teachers and students, telling them how NASA is directly improving the quality of education - by providing hands-on experiences and training for both teachers and students. I'll also be telling them about the educational resources that are available on-line," Williams said.

After the five-day Matanuska-Susitna stop, Starship moves on to Challenger Learning Center in Kenai for a four-day visit, Sept. 9-12. There, Williams will continue meeting school groups and discussing some of the new discoveries coming out of the space program in astronomy, biology, physics and other subjects. The 3-year-old Challenger Center, funded by federal grants and corporate donations, is dedicated to space education.

Williams works at the Marshall Center for the Huntsville-based aerospace firm ERC, Inc., a subcontractor to NASA contractor Jacob Sverdrup of Tullahoma, Tenn. She is part of an engineering team that is helping to develop several new space vehicle and flight technologies for NASA to expand America's presence in space.

Williams will encourage Alaska students who want to be part of space exploration to understand they will need a strong background in science, mathematics and engineering. "For me, pursuing an education in that field was natural, because I had an interest in science and an aptitude in math. From the time I was a kid I wanted to grow up and be an astronaut," said Williams.

She remembers sitting with her parents on top of a volcano during a Hawaii vacation, looking at what seemed like "every star in the sky." That's when she first dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But as a teen-ager, she attended Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and changed her mind: What she really wanted was to become an aerospace engineer.

"Once I decided on a career path, at age 15, I never looked back," Williams said. "It made choosing my high school and college classes so much easier, and also helped me decide which college to attend." She selected the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where she earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 2000.

Williams cites "working with people who are passionate about what they do" as the best part of her job at the Marshall Center. In her spare time, Williams plays Ultimate Frisbee and is a runner, continuing on the athletic path she followed as a youth in Anchorage. "I was a figure skater, downhill skier, raced snowmobiles, and played soccer, volleyball and tennis. "Stereotypically, I guess you could say I was both a jock and a nerd in high school," said Williams. "But if you live in Alaska, it's hard not to be involved in outdoor sports."

Williams' parents, Kathy and Bob Williams live in Anchorage. Her brother, Paul Williams, plays professional hockey for the Anchorage Aces. For more information visit:

For more information:
News release
Starship 2040 Web site

Brandon Boone
Public Affairs Office
(256) 544-0034

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