#WCWinSTEM: LaNetra Clayton Tate, Ph.D.

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Dr. LaNetra Clayton Tate is a polymer chemist and program executive for the Game Changing Development (GCD) Program at NASA.

Dr. LaNetra Clayton Tate took on the challenge of chemistry and finished graduate school with a patent! Her publication records shows that she has been quite busy studying polymer chemistry and nanocomposite materials. We’re so delighted to have Dr. LaNetra Clayton Tate tell us her story as this week’s #WCWinSTEM!

Responses may be edited for clarity and brevity.

 

Where did you go to school?

  • B.S. Chemisty, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Tallahassee, FL
  • Ph.D. Chemistry, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

 

What do you do right now?

I have a doctorate in chemistry but I am now program executive for the Game Changing Development Program within the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA.

The Game Changing Development aims to advance exploratory concepts and deliver technology solutions that enable new capabilities or radically alter current approaches.

Our goal is to lead, motivate and inspire technology development and innovation through collaborative relationships between government, academia and commercial entities.

We focus on high-risk, high-reward technologies and get them ready to transition beyond technology development into technology demonstration in NASA missions, and advance commercial technologies and markets. Currently, the GCD program has 7 technology focus areas: space power and propulsion; high bandwidth communication, deep space navigation, avionics; advanced life support and resource utilization; entry descent and landing systems; autonomy and space robotics systems; lightweight structures and manufacturing; and space observatory systems.

 

What made you choose your STEM discipline in the first place?

Chemistry was always a challenge for me and I wanted to conquer the challenge, so I majored in it.

In graduate school, I worked on carbon nanotube composites. I was in the lab working to understand what happens to the nanotubes when they are placed in a solvent like methylene chloride and they “disappeared”! I told my professor and she did not believe that the solution was “clear”, so I made up another batch and took it to her and placed it on her desk…I would say about 15 minutes later she ran down the lab full of excitement…next came my first patent filing. What I had figured out was that in the solvent, the nanotubes actually dispersed, which made the system transparent.

 

What’s one piece of advice you wish you had when you started your STEM journey?

Always be curious and stay persistent!

 

Jedidah Isler