Thursday, October 9, 2014

Latin@ Heritage Month - Latinas in Space 3

This is the third in a series of posts about Latinas working in the Space Industry. As you can read the first and second posts, there are Latinas working at or for NASA in a wide variety of roles -- doing science, designing equipment, etc. You can read four here.

As Michelle Madsen Camacho and Susan M. Lord note in their study and the follow up book, The Borderlands of Education: Latinas in Engineering, the low number of Latinas in STEM fields, and engineering in particular, is a matter of recruiting them in the first place. When a latina considers a degree in engineering, she has to be the one to show up to class after class filled with people who do not share her background. What is needed, they assert (and I agree), is a broader vision of what engineering looks like, and who is an engineer. To do this, we have to have more prominent role models for young women, and more public celebrations of diversity in STEM fields.

Dr. Marla Perez-Davis
Dr. Marla Perez-Davis is a chemical engineer who serves as Director for the Aeronautics Research Office at NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio. [edit: In June 2016, she was named Deputy Director of NASA Glenn Research Center, serving under Director Dr. Janet Kavandi, the first woman in the top position.]

She earned her BS from the University of Puerto Rico, her MS from the University of Toledo, and a PhD from Case Western Reserve University. All three degrees are in Chemical Engineering.

In 1983 she was hired by NASA, and has worked at the Glenn Research Center for most of her career. She has served as Chief of the Electrochemistry Branch, managing the research and development projects related to electrochemical energy conservation and storage. Her teams were responsible for researching and developing component design, cell fabrication, testing, advanced system conception and evaluation of proposed projects.

She also served as the Research and Technology Lead in the Plans and Programs Office, evaluating high level NASA policies and planning for the Glenn Research Center, and designing and implementing appropriate plans and processes to ensure quality and effective research. Dr. Pérez-Davis was also responsible for planning, coordinating, directing and supervising the Project Liaison and Integration Office. In this position, her primary responsibilities included implementing, integrating and managing all phases of technical management and resources analysis, and controls.

During her illustrious career, she has received a number of awards, including the 2005 Distinguished Alumni Award - Alumni Association of University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, 2003 Women in Aerospace Award for Aerospace Awareness, 2001 Women of Color Technology Award for Career Achievement, and the 2001 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Santiago Rodriguez Diversity Award. In 2009, Dr. Pérez-Davis was chosen as one of theHispanic Business Magazine's 25 Elite Women.

In addition to her duties at NASA, Dr. Pérez-Davis completed the Senior Executive Service Candidate Developmental Program in 2004. She also participated in the NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program and served her tenure at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. She developed and implemented initiatives leading to K-12 teacher’s professional development and other outreach activities in Puerto Rico.

Dr. Marla Perez-Davis profile on Latina Women of NASA
Dr. Marla Perez-Davis profile on NASA website

Amri Hernández-Pellerano
Amri Hernández-Pellerano is a Puerto Rican electrical engineer and scientist who designs, builds and tests the electronics that will regulate the solar array power to charge spacecraft batteries and distribute the power within it. She works out of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. She designed the power systems electronics for various scientific spacecraft that have been launched recently, or will be deployed soon.

She grew up in Puerto Rico, where she performed well in school, and was especially fond of math and science classes. After high school, she entered the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. While there, she applied to and was accepted into the NASA Cooperative Education Program, which enabled her to work with NASA scientist at Goddard while also earning school credit. She graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering, and was hired full time at Goddard. While working at Goddard she completed her MS in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University.

In 1992, she joined the Power Systems Branch at Goddard. In 2003, she received the GSFC Engineering Achievement Award for her design of the Power Systems Electronics for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe mission, a NASA Explorer mission spacecraft which measures the temperature of the cosmic background radiation over the full sky with unprecedented accuracy. This map of the remnant heat from the Big Bang provides answers to fundamental questions about the origin and fate of our universe.

She is currently working on a variety of scientific spacecraft, including the Space Technology-5, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Lunar Reconnaissance Observer and the Aquarius/SAC-D missions. She is also the chair for the Hispanic Advisory Committee for Employees at Goddard, which serves as a liaison between NASA and its Hispanic employees on matters affecting their employment at Goddard.

Over her career, she has won numerous performances and team awards for her contributions in the area of Electrical and Power Systems Electronics, most notably the Goddard Space Flight Center Engineering Achievement Award and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. And she was just awarded the 2014 Great Minds in STEM/HENAAC (Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation) Professional Achievement II.

Amri Hernández-Pellerano profile on Latina Women of NASA
Amri Hernández-Pellerano biography on Wikipedia

Madeline Butler
Madeline Butler serves as the Deputy Senior Engineer of the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate and the Data Systems Standards Manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. She also serves as the Engineering Technical Authority for the Space and Ground Networks. She was selected to join five other NASA engineers to design and develop the communications infrastructure to support future missions to Mars.

She was born in Maricao, Puerto Rico. Even as a young girl, she was fascinated with space, and was always looking at the stars through her telescope. During the 1969 Moon Landing, she made up her mind to work for NASA, no matter what. In 1971, she earned her BS in Mathematics from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. And in 1977 she made her dream come true. She was hired to work at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and worked there for over three decades. In 1981, while still working at NASA, she earned a MS in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University.

In her time at NASA, she has served in a wide variety of roles, including the Head of the Telemetry and tracking Systems Section, Project Manager for the Automation of the NASA Ground Terminal at White Sands, New Mexico, Senior Systems Engineer for the Mission Operations and Data Systems Directorate, and Head of the Mission Implementation and Technology Management Office of the Mission Operations and Systems Development Division, where she managed engineers responsible for mission data systems design, development, testing, operations and planning of NASA missions.

Over her amazing career, she received several prestigious awards. She was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 1995 for the design of integrated science and mission control centers. She received the Silver Snoopy Award for outstanding support to Space Transportation System (Space Shuttle) Program, the Manned Flight Launch Awareness Honoree, Award of Merit, for the achievements in support of the manned space program, and the NASA Equal Opportunity Award for the contribution towards reaching the Equal Opportunity goals.

She was one of the first women from Puerto Rico to be hired to work at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. To help foster opportunities for other Puerto Rican women at NASA, she has traveled there almost a dozen times to recruit more.

Madeline Butler profile on Latina Women of NASA

Lissette Martinez
Lissette Martinez is the lead electrical engineer for the Space Experiment Module program at the Wallops Flight Facility, which is part of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

She was born in Brooklyn, New York, but her family returned to Puerto Rico when she was still a child. In 8th grade, she had to study the moon for a class assignment. Every night for a month, she spent time on the roof of her house, taking notes and making observations about how it looked. This assignment set her on her course to study space in more detail.

After high school, she attended classes at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, where she studied Electrical Engineering. During her third year, she was able to participate in the NASA Cooperative Education Program which enabled her to partner with a NASA scientist while still earning school credit. She received her BS in Electrical Engineering in 1993, and was immediately offered a job at NASA as part of the team studying the Hale-Bopp comet.

She has also served as the electrical engineering support for the Code 870 Space Experiment Module (SEM) Program, an educational initiative to increase student access to space. She works out of the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Her duties include testing ground and flight hardware. When she's not busy doing that, she works with students from around the world, helping them develop science experiments that travel into space with astronauts.

Lissette Martinez biography on Wikipedia
Lissette Martinezprofile on Latina Women of NASA


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