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UW-Milwaukee grad shares Mars rover experience with students

Posted at 10:18 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 23:18:47-05

MILWAUKEE — In typical pandemic fashion, Milwaukee native Darian Dixon watched NASA's landing of the Mars rover Perseverance from home.

"I was pacing, sweating," Dixon said. "It’s our livelihood that was landing, it’s our baby."

Dixon works on the high-powered cameras attached to Perseverance, as well as the rover Curiosity, which has been on Mars since 2012. He says he does a lot of data storage, coding and programming. He also helps put together panoramic stills of thousands of images the cameras take.

One of the goals of the rovers is to search for signs of ancient life.

Wednesday night Dixon got to share his experience with students at his Alma mater, UW-Milwaukee, via Zoom.

Dixon says he grew up down the road from UW-Milwaukee, and he went to Riverside University High School. He graduated with a degree in geological sciences in 2015.

He said it means a lot to him being an African American man in the science and engineering field, and especially being from Milwaukee. He says representation matters.

"I sat next to Black kids at MPS that were smarter than me, that were harder working than me, so much better at math than me, and for a variety of reasons just did not come out of the city with the same opportunities and the success that I had," Dixon said. "So for me, it's a mission every day to represent for them and to get as far as I can because they couldn't."

According to a 2014 report from Scientific American, African American men and women make up 5 percent of the science and engineering fields, and Hispanic men and women make up 6 percent.

Dixon says the statistics shouldn't hold students of color back.

"You belong here, you absolutely belong here," Dixon said. "Because of the evils of this world, never for a second let that doubt your ability to get to places where you want to be."

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