Lebanon’s new sweetheart, Maya Nasr is smashing all of society’s misconceptions into smithereens and sending her dreams into outer-space.
Born in 1997, Maya grew up in the Chouf and pursued her studies in the region’s public school. She then made it as one of the rare students from the Middle East to be accepted in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Aerospace Engineering program without being a US citizen.
Yes gentlemen, women dream of launching rockets too!
We had the chance to ask Maya some questions in order to know her better. And we don’t know about you, but we’re sure she’s heading towards a bright future!
Let me start with the most obvious question that comes to mind when someone hears about you. Why astrophysics?
Aerospace engineering and astrophysics are things I am passionate about. Rocket science, space, and astronomy are topics I just deeply love. The adrenaline rush you feel when watching a rocket launch or the intensity that takes hold of you while observing the universe cannot just be described. That’s why I chose Aerospace Engineering as my major. It’s not something you actually choose, it’s just giving in to a passion that you have inside of you. I didn’t know anyone who pursued my major or career path before I came to MIT, but I was sure that this was what I wanted to do in life.
The path to a scholarship in MIT’s Astrophysics program is surely not an easy one. How did you decide this was what you wanted to do and what were the different steps that got you to achieve your goal?
It all started in the beginning of grade 10 when I applied to a program at AMIDEAST called Competitive College Club, also known as CCC, and they had a scholarship called DKKSF (Diana Kamal Scholarship Search Fund). After applying, I got the scholarship, and I enrolled in their program during my high school years. I applied to several universities in the US, but my dream college was MIT, and I fortunately got accepted there. I currently benefit from a full scholarship from MIT’s AeroAstro department.
Before starting your studies at MIT, you have enrolled in activities such as the UNESCO’s competition for women rights and worked with associations helping the disabled; you are also an accomplished athlete. Do you think building bridges between different disciplines is what makes you stand out?
Definitely. Being a well-rounded student is something all universities and workplaces care about. I’ve always been very passionate about space and rocket science, but at the same time, my other passion lies in Arabic writing and poetry. I’ve also been involved in all those activities you mentioned, and I believe that I would’ve never been the person I am today without them because they built my leadership skills and boosted my confidence. I believe that being a successful person requires more than mere professional skills, you also need to have the proper social, diplomatic, and artistic skills to complete the missing pieces of the puzzle that creates your character and defines who you are.
What was your dream as a little girl?
As a little girl, I always wanted to be an astronaut, and this is still my dream and will always be until it comes true. Being able to explore space and get a real feel of this universe is something I’ve always dreamt of. This is why I was inspired by people who dedicated their life for science, and by my two favorite geniuses, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Another person who inspired me and gave me hope to follow my passion and pursue this major was Dr. Charles Elachi. When I saw that another Lebanese person became as successful as he is and was able to achieve amazing things and reach such positions, I gained another drive to work hard and follow my passion.
Towards which goal are you striving?
Other than fulfilling my dream of becoming an astronaut at some point in my life, I’m working on getting involved in as many space projects and programs as I can. One of my goals is to contribute to space exploration and missions that will be launched like the SLS (Space Launch System) in 2018 or the MARS 2020 rover which I’m currently working on.
Do you have any advice for today’s youth and girls in particular?
My main advice for all the youth, and for girls in particular, is to not let anyone or anything define who you are or what you want to do or be in life. It is your life, so just look for passion and follow it. This is the only way that will lead you to success and happiness. Forget about all the political and religious nonsense that is destroying the world, and Lebanon in particular, and follow your dreams. If you love something and you want it, you will achieve it and you will be good at it, so never let society restrict you or push you away from your dreams. Even if the whole world stood against you at some point, they will all change their minds and admire your choices when they see your success. Remember life is all about taking risks and making choices, so make sure when you’ll look back at your choices at some point in your life, you won’t regret what you’ve done.