Scholarships at MIT: Sheila Baber ’21

(Sheila Baber ’21)
Course 12 Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences
Course 8 Physics

Sheila Baber ’21 spent her early childhood on her grandparents’ farm in South Korea helping grow cabbage, lettuce, and sesame. Now she hopes to combine a love of agriculture with training in the latest satellite technology to feed people on Earth and, maybe someday, on Mars.

As a sophomore, Baber was part of a team that placed second in NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing Idea Challenge to devise a working greenhouse on Mars. The experience helped inspire her career path in Earth observation: “I started out trying to grow plants in space,” she says. “Now I’m looking at plants from space to help farmers grow more food using less water, fertilizer, and ultimately fossil fuels.”

A recipient of a scholarship established by Natalie Lorenz-Anderson ’84, the recent graduate traveled to South Korea through the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives this past summer to work for a satellite company. She plans to begin PhD studies at the University of Maryland, where she will focus on satellite applications in agriculture.

Baber hopes to advance the use of tiny cube satellites to produce images that can help predict crop yields or warn of potential famines. She doesn’t lose sight of the purpose behind capturing images of the Earth from space. “Behind the pixels are the people,” she says. “And the people are those I want to help.”

—Mark Sullivan