Frontiers Conference at the University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh researchers play a leading role in a White House conference, co-hosted by Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, on the future of innovation.

Reaching Beyond

Marcia Lindstrom grew up in rural Mississippi. She was a small-town girl who loved music and words.

So, how did she get to the University of Pittsburgh's Alumni Hall, where she stands practically in the middle of the room, showcasing a virtual reality set that gives users big goggles and the anxiety of being up close to a rocket as it rattles and shakes, preparing to launch to Mars.

Lindstrom greets visitors in the center of White House Frontiers conference’s exhibition space. It is a place that showcases all kinds gadgets that will launch Americans across all kinds frontiers in science, medicine, data, energy, and even interplanetary knowledge.

Lindstrom is no stranger to crossing frontiers. In 1990, she was the first woman to serve in her Air Force unit in training at Fort Campbell, on the Tennessee-Kentucky border.

Lindstrom used the Air Force to advance her education, studying weather and radar systems. She lived and worked all over the nation.

Three years ago, she came to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

“I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’m close,” smiles Lindstrom. She’s now working in external relations, helping to give sense and possibilities to the notion that the United States will launch to Mars in 2030.

The United States, she says, is already building hardware and testing the capacity of rockets necessary for deep space exploration. Coming to exhibitions with their virtual reality display helps to showcase that NASA is beyond paper models in showing what that capacity will be like and feel like.

“This conference helps us to understand that there are frontiers still unknown, that there are opportunities that remain,” she says.

“Imagine what we’ll know tomorrow. Deep space opens up a world of frontiers in technology and how we use our minds.”

Check back throughout the week for more on the White House Frontiers Conference. 

—Ervin Dyer