Dr. Leslie Wickman Interview

Q: Can you share some of your unique strengths or gifts with us?  

A: The unknown excites and inspires me. I am not afraid to ask big questions because I believe God is bigger than all our questions combined. I have an innate aptitude for math, science, and technology. And I think I’ve become a pretty good communicator over the years, through listening and truly empathizing with the struggles that others are going through. I do my best to lead with empathy and humility during discussion and debate.  

Q: How old were you when you first started to recognize these gifts?  

A: Like everyone else, my strengths have evolved over the years. My ability to communicate has been refined through my life journey and is still being refined today. However, I realized my interest in the unknown at a young age. My father was an engineer and I remember looking through his telescope when I was a child. Inspired by what I saw, I was launched onto a path of deep questioning, insatiable curiosity, and an overwhelming awe of our divine designer.  

Q: Can you share a short story of someone who inspired you to take action? How old were you? 

A: Sure! When I was in junior high school I had a science teacher who was a self-proclaimed atheist. He recommended that we leave our faith at the door when we walked into his classroom. This experience disrupted my comfortable Christian ideals and upbringing. For the first time, faith and science seemed incompatible. But are they?   

Rather than accept the belief of this authority figure in my life as truth, I relied on my gift of curiosity and the ability to ask big questions. This experience inspired a two-decades-long pursuit to uncover a complementary relationship between faith and science. A belief I am purposefully strengthening and sharing with humanity today. 

Q: What impact have you made that you are most proud of? 

A: Gosh, as someone who tries to avoid pride and boasting, it’s hard for me to name the ways my life has impacted others. However, I truly believe that everything I’ve accomplished—in what might seem like parallel lives rather than just one—God has orchestrated it all. Dismissing or minimizing my accomplishments would be to minimize His work in my life.  

I have been able to play two professional sports, Pro-Am Beach Volleyball (FIVB and BVA) and Women’s Professional Football (with the California Quake World Bowl Championship team).  

I have traveled with Athletes in Action volleyball teams to Bolivia, Brazil, and South Africa. 

I earned a master of science degree in aeronautical/astronautical engineering from Stanford University, following a liberal arts undergraduate degree in political science from Willamette University in Oregon. All of my peers in the program had undergrad degrees in engineering. I had to work really hard to compensate for my lack of technical preparation. After that, I went on to complete my PhD in human factors & biomechanics, also from Stanford’s School of Engineering. 

I contributed to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station Programs, as well as spacesuit design research, went through astronaut training, and have contributed to the design of current and future spaceflight vehicles.  

I also contributed to R&D and programming for the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas (which may not be as far removed from the aerospace world as one might think!). 

Looking back on my accomplishments, I have a deep sense of satisfaction, but I am also astonished! All of my impact can be contributed to a commitment I made to God when I was nine years old. Much like Isaiah, I heard God ask, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). 

As a child, I assumed this mission meant I would be sent away from my home and those that I loved to do His work. Once I came to peace with this idea, He showed me pretty specifically that His work can also be accomplished closer to home. I have been doing my best to follow this calling since I was nine: walking through the doors He opens and letting go of the ones He doesn’t.  

Again, I try to avoid pride, but because of my calling and commitment, I’d say I’m most deeply fulfilled by the opportunities I’ve had to help connect the dots between science and faith through speaking engagements, teaching, interviews, writing, and my own nonprofit organization. They have all provided a platform to share the exciting and awe-inspiring relationship between science and theology that will live beyond my time here on earth. 

Q: What wisdom or piece of advice do you feel is most applicable to the next generation of scientists? 

A: First, I would say that no question is too grand to explore, even in the face of adversity. My big questions have contributed to a cultural shift. I have helped to build bridges between science and God at a time in history when they are more often thought to be contradictory.  

Second, I would say that just as the secrets of time, space, and eternity are far beyond what humanity can currently understand, so is the life that God has for you to live. While scary, choosing His path into the unknown will be far more impactful than any plan you devise for yourself.