College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Ask a Cyclone engineer: Madison Harrington aims to make space travel regular part of life

Madison Harrington

This story is a part of the 2018 Women’s History Month series. To read more stories, click here.

Madison Harrington, junior in aerospace engineering, poses in Howe Hall, her major’s home turf.

Madison Harrington, junior in aerospace engineering, shoots for the stars. When exploring her plans to open a coffee shop on the moon and make space travel like going on a road trip, Harrington strives to be exceptional in everything that she does.

Harrington was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to two engineers. Her father studied aerospace and her mother mechanical.

Harrington earned the Brooke Owens fellowship for her internship at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California starting in May. The fellowship was presented to just 36 other women across the country this year.

What are your long-term career goals?

“I want to go to space! I’ve wanted to be an astronaut since I was a senior in high school after I got my private pilot license. Even further, though, I want to contribute to human space exploration. One of my goals is to open a coffee shop on the moon because I imagine having something as comforting and luxurious as a coffee shop away from our home as a great representation of our success in making space travel as informal as going on a road trip.”

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

“Women’s History Month is so important because women in history don’t often get recognized for the incredible work they do. It’s very difficult to be motivated in a male dominated culture without knowing that even stronger and braver women did it first. Women’s History Month lets the world see those women’s courageous lives. If I don’t live as extraordinarily as women before me, then I’m doing them a disservice.”

Have you faced any obstacles in your field based on gender?

“I’ve read that men are often judged on their potential and women on their achievements. That expectation dictates that I should, to be judged well, do better than not only my peers, but especially my female peers. There’s an unspoken and inexplicable competition against the other women in the field. The best way to overcome this is to befriend each other and help each other succeed, men and women alike, and Iowa State is very encouraging of this.”

Harrington hopes to become and astronaut someday, just like this rendition of Cy.

Do you have any advice for young women in aerospace or other fields?

“Don’t feel like you ‘have’ to do anything because you’re a woman. Though it feels like you need to prove yourself, that you need to stick to certain standards or even fit in to the current engineering culture, make it your own! Diversity of thought is so important because you bring your own qualities without adapting to how you may think you ‘should’ behave.”

Do you have any role models that stand out?

“My role models include Peggy Whitson, Elon Musk, Margaret Hamilton and Shonda Rhimes, to name just a few. I admire these individuals’ domination in their field. Not only do they do great things, they do them exceptionally well.”

What kind of impact do you hope to have?

“I hope to become a role model for both girls and boys, that they can be inspired to become the ultimate learners in human history with extraordinary new territory to explore. Role models are extraordinarily important. What would we do without the comfort of knowing others have taken great risks and accomplished great things because of it?”