BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – What do you have in common with a rocket scientist? Many people might scratch their heads and slowly reply, “Probably nothing.”

But LSU Mechanical Engineering graduate, Bailey Smoorenburg, proves that the most brilliant minds among us can also be the most down-to-earth.

In May, Smoorenburg graduated from LSU in mechanical engineering with a minor in robotics. She’s already secured her first job working alongside Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin team in Washington.

Known as a pioneer in American aerospace and space exploration, the company makes rocket engines for the United Launch Alliance and other customers. In June, she’ll begin working in Blue Origin’s rocket engine thrust chamber assembly division, or TCA.

This means her work will focus on the BE-7 engine of a flexible lander tasked with delivering cargo or crew to the moon. This particular flexible lander is called Blue Moon.

“I am looking forward to making my mark on a team with very few women,” Smoorenburg said. “I will also be working on the BE-7 engine which is relatively early in its development. This means I could have a hand in some of the iterations and processes that are made for the engine! I am also excited to learn more about propulsion in general.”

How a rocket scientist stays grounded

Even though Smoorenburg’s work will take rockets to new heights, she remains grounded.

“In my free time, I am an avid reader, I love to cook and bake, hike, and mentor high school robotics teams,” she said.

She enjoys helping younger students. She spent much of her time doing so in Baton Rouge and hopes to continue the volunteer work when she moves to Seattle. Her enthusiasm for helping others comes from a deep appreciation for those who took the time to teach her when she was a child.

“I first became interested in STEM at a young age when my father, Joseph Smoorenburg, would tell me about his job as a petroleum engineer at Chevron. This interest was truly fostered into something more in seventh grade when I took a Project Lead The Way intro to engineering course,” Smoorenburg said.

She added, “I definitely looked up to my PLTW teacher Mrs. Tracey Martinez in the beginning. She was an amazing teacher that continued to push me further down the path of pursuing engineering long term, like joining the Mandeville High School robotics team.”

Being a woman in STEM brings challenges, opportunities

Smoorenburg’s path to success hasn’t always been smooth. She’s overcome obstacles.

“A lot of the challenges I have faced honestly come from myself; anxiety has definitely taken its toll, especially through the pandemic,” Smoorenburg said. “I often felt overwhelmed with school and virtual learning environments. I’m some cases, I was prone to imposter syndrome, and I have been working hard, and I’m sure will continue to do so, to overcome that.”

She said one tool was particularly helpful: learning “more about influential women in STEM like Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson. Their stories pushed me to continue in engineering even when the being-a-woman-in-STEM thing got hard.”

Now that Smoorenburg is poised to make a difference in the scientific community, and in our understanding of the universe, the LSU graduate has advice for others who are interested in STEM.

“Keep pushing, especially when it gets hard. Even if it may seem so, nothing worthwhile ever comes easy,” she said. “Ask for help when you need it, rely on those you trust, but keep your sights set. And yes, that all sounds cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason, right?”