Women in Science Highlight: Olympia LePoint (1977-present)

I’m excited to announce that this time around, our Women in Science1 Highlight is not only a local to LA, but she is a two-time CSUN alumna (B.S. and M.S.)! While it’s important to highlight historically revolutionary women in science, I also believe in appreciating the living legends. And one kickass, legendary woman in science is Olympia LePoint. I recently discovered her by chance, and I’d like to share her story with you.

Olympia LePoint

She has all of the accomplishments you are expecting from a ‘Women in Science’ highlight. You know, the usual- she wrote an empowering book to help everyone succeed in math (Mathaphobia), she’s a college instructor, a professional public speaker who started her own company, and- she’s a rocket scientist. (I’m not kidding- she helped NASA launch 28 space shuttles.) She was in the top 5 of 6,500 students in her graduating class, she has been nicknamed ‘the new Einstein’, and –perhaps many of us could learn a lesson or two from her- she’s not afraid to talk about her accomplishments. So, that’s impressive, right? But aside from her being close to our hearts here at CSUN, why am I spending all of this time writing about her, and why are you spending this time reading about her? (Assuming I haven’t lost you yet.)

Because she has overcome a ridiculous amount of adversity in her life to get where she is today. And because she’s passionate enough to share her story to inspire others. She has not only had to deal with the obstacles that come with being a female in a male-dominated field of study (I’ll save that for another blog post), but she also grew up in one of the roughest areas of South Central—or ‘South LA’ as we are supposed to call it now. Her and her sisters feared for their own lives as well as their family members’, and in elementary school, Olympia was attacked by a classmate who was in one of the gangs. (See the article below for more details).

As if that wasn’t enough discouragement, she lost all of her belongings, some of her friends, and almost her own life in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Imagine working incredibly hard to beat so many odds to get to CSUN—and then your freshman year, the earthquake happens. Yeah. It takes an incredibly fierce person to get through all of that with even some mental health in tact, to succeed, and then have enough energy left to become an icon, inspiring young scholars with their story.

I will leave you with this:
“If I became a rocket scientist, given such early dysfunction, I am convinced that you can be anything you desire: if you choose to work on removing fear from your life.”
–Olympia LePoint


Check out her TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PV7Hy_8fhA , and the article I used to source a lot of this information here: http://therotarianmagazine.com/for-olympia-lepoint-it-is-rocket-science/

1 I must admit an underlying assumption: I consider math and science inseparable. She is a mathematician.
**This blog post was inspired by my involvement in CSUN’s Women in Science club. Join us for our first meeting of the semester on Monday, Feb 2nd from 11-12 PM. See our Facebook page for more detail! https://www.facebook.com/CSUNWiS

On that note- I noticed she has come back to campus to speak a few times in her career- give a shout out if you’re interested in inviting her back (or if you have connections to her!)

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