Profile: Paromita Mitra
How often do the worlds of pageantry and rocket science collide?
For Paromita Mitra, a senior aerospace engineering major and Miss Mississippi USA 2013, these worlds come together every day.
Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and raised in Hattiesburg, Mitra always had many different dreams and areas of interest.
Mitra began competing in pageants in high school, first in beauty reviews at Oak Grove High School and then in Miss Teen Mississippi. She held the title of Miss Teen Mississippi 2009 and, upon attending MSU, won the title of Miss Maroon and White 2011.
Mitra decided to take on Miss Mississippi USA a couple of years later.
"I realized how much of a voice being a title-holder gives you, and I knew I wanted to compete for a national title again," Mitra said. "I also knew I wanted to represent this state because of my educational background here."
This educational background inspired and cultivated another of Mitra's dreams.
"My goal is to be an astronaut. I want to work at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas," Mitra said.
Mitra has used both her involvement in pageants as well as with the rocket team in the MSU aerospace engineering department, the Space Cowboys, to realize her own potential and be an example for others. Over the years, Mitra has used her titles to promote education and research in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
She has especially used her position to reach out to young girls and impart the importance of education to them in hands-on ways.
"A lot of the girls I come across have been told that they can't do anything but be pretty their entire lives," Mitra said. "When they hear that you can get a degree and still live your dreams, it's so cool."
"They get so excited about science!" she added with a smile.
Mitra's time as Miss Mississippi USA has afforded her several opportunities to promote STEM education in Mississippi and in other parts of the nation. In March, Mitra spoke with Gov. Phil Bryant about the future of education and the aerospace industry in the state, as well as hosted more than 50 girls from the I Am Girl organization with the MSU Space Cowboys to teach them about aerospace science and build rocket kits.
In April, Mitra traveled to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., to speak to more than 900 young adults on the importance of STEM education.
Mitra credits her involvement with the aerospace engineering department as a major influence on her growth as an advocate for education and her experience at MSU.
"Coming to State was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Being involved in aerospace engineering made me fall in love with this place; everyone in our department has such a close connection," Mitra said.
Mitra will compete for the title of Miss USA on Sunday, June 16, in Las Vegas at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. The pageant will be aired live at 8 p.m. Central Standard Time on NBC.Writer: Morgan Tubbs | Photo: Megan Bean
Next week … Zach Woolley !