Bio: Moogega Cooper received a BS in Physics from Hampton University in 2006 and a MS and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University in 2009 at 24 years old. Upon graduating, she became a Post-Doc at NASA JPL where she worked on assessing microorganisms found in spacecraft assembly cleanrooms. Moogega also worked on technologies which are able to search for and monitor the persistence of life in extreme environments. In 2011, she became a full-time employee at JPL where she works on technology development and contamination assessment methodologies to meet planetary protection requirements for the 2018 Mars Sample Return Mission.
What makes you a Nerd / Geek? My love for science, mathematics, and engineering, as well as my desire to unlock mysteries on earth and explore uncharted territories beyond this beautiful blue marble.
What did you think of your co-contestants and NERDVANA? My co-contestants come from a wide variety of interests and personality traits. It was great to live with them and see first hand what they were passionate about. Nerdvana was just that: It was a house that perfectly symbolized a place where nerds who worked their entire lives to achieve this highest state of being has finally reached the epitome of tiers. It was a fantastic experience to live in Nerdvana and I miss sleeping with Team Orange!
How did you find out you were to be a contestant, and what did you do when you found out? I initially found out that I was being considered when I got a phone call in the middle of the day between experiments. I was told that I have to submit a video to be officially considered and had to scrape one together that day! Luckily I have some pretty awesome co-workers who took their off-time to help me shoot it. I was thrilled but wanted to keep my emotions at bay until it was certain! Once I knew for sure, I screamed and jumped on the bed for a good 10 minutes.
What will you do if you win the $100,000? I would invest a great deal of the money. As my mother says, “Earn $5, save $6.” I would also give some significant gifts to a few key people who didn’t spare a dime on me when I was a poor grad student and poor post-doc.
What got you into your niche? I was initially interested in becoming an Astrophysicist after watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos in middle school. We’d rent another cassette each time we visited the public library. From then on, I knew I had to focus on math and science in order to achieve this goal. This is what I keep in mind when speaking to the next generation of explorers. When you have a prize you can affix your eye on, it helps when you feel tired or discouraged. Keep that eye on the prize!
Has the show increased your following? I didn’t really have a following of people before and needed to create a twitter and facebook fan page in anticipation of the show. Once it aired, I definitely saw a surge in followers and likes. More importantly, it provided a means for me to hear about OTHER people out there who have similar interests and similar struggles. It is quite fascinating.
What do you want to come from being on the show? I want to be able to increase my outreach activities to the level it used to be in graduate school. I used to go to schools and host students at my university to mentor them for as little as a day and as long as a year. It is a rewarding experience and it is my duty to continue this effort.
What would you like to tell our readers? Always strive to learn new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Take the time in your day to stop and live in the moment. Realize that you are living life and hopefully it is the way you want to be living it. Never forget all those who have helped you along the way. Be thankful, be grateful, and stay true to who you are.