MAE alum Erin Winick Anthony receives NASA award

During her undergrad days, while she was just launching her career from the labs and classrooms of UF MAE, Erin Winick Anthony considered herself a “weird” engineer. She was one of the astronomically few who actually enjoyed the writing and communication element of science. Now, her penchant for science communications has earned her considerable recognition for work she’s done with NASA.

Anthony, who graduated from UF with a degree in mechanical engineering, received a Silver Snoopy award in a ceremony on December 1. The award is presented by NASA astronauts to employees and contractors who have contributed significantly to the success of spaceflight missions. 

Specifically, Anthony was recognized for her efforts promoting and spreading information about all the impacts of the research being conducted on the International Space Station. Her job at Barrios Technology, a NASA contractor, involves using social media such as Twitter and Instagram to reach a wide audience and effectively tell stories of the activities aboard the ISS and why they matter. She helped revamp the ISS social media strategy by shifting it toward more audience engagement, using new types of content, and jumping on popular trends.

“To be able to have that award for that work that I’ve done felt very special,” she said. “It feels really great to be recognized in that way.”

The prize itself is a sterling silver lapel pin that depicts Snoopy, the cartoon dog from the Peanuts comic strip, in an astronaut uniform (an image drawn by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz specifically for this use). Each Silver Snoopy pin has flown in space before being granted to the award winner. It also comes with a commendation letter from the NASA Astronaut Corps and a framed certificate. Anthony said the award is relatively rare and highly coveted among employees. She was especially appreciative of the recognition for her social media efforts, which she described as an often overlooked yet important component of spaceflight missions. 

“There’s potential to reach so many new people with this message and get people excited about it,” she said. “It’s so great for such a wide range of science and engineering communication pieces that I think it’s been hard to be able to reach in traditional media.”

She attributes much of her success to the positive collaborative environment of the group that she works with.

“We have a really really amazing group of science communicators,” she said. “We’re the type of group that are super excited to try new things and are motivated to always test out that new tool and work together and really collaborate on stuff, so it’s been an amazing group that’s all very encouraging and supportive.”

After earning her bachelor’s from UF in 2016, Anthony worked as a reporter for the MIT Technology Review and founded Sci Chic, a fashion brand inspired by science and engineering, before becoming an ISS science communications specialist. In addition to her work with NASA, she also actively runs personal social media accounts, which she uses as a testbed for content as well as a platform to promote space-themed fashion items that she designs (such as earrings based on the design of the Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror, a skirt modeled after the Mars rover Perseverance’s parachute, and many more celestially inspired creations). She said that using social media allows her to reach a much wider audience and expose lots of non-scientists to STEM content.

“I really love being able to use social media as a tool to be able to reach all of these different audiences,” she said. “It’s a really fun medium to be able to play around in and really use to our advantage.”

Looking ahead, Anthony hopes to continue the meteoric momentum of her career by applying her communicative expertise and her entrepreneurial spirit to running her own science communications business, which will orbit around the goal of spreading news and information from the final frontier to an even wider and growing non-STEM audience.

Story by: Ben Crosbie
Graphic by: Hayley Starr
Marketing & Communications Student Assistants
UF Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
January 26, 2023