Discrimination isn’t a thunderbolt, it isn’t an abrupt slap in the face. It’s the slow drumbeat of being underappreciated, feeling uncomfortable and encountering roadblocks along the path to success. These subtle distinctions help make women feel out of place.—
STEMinism 2014 keynote speaker Professor Meg Urry
This is the second in a series of posts about Latinas working in the Space Industry. As I mentioned in the first post, there has only been one Latina who has gone into outer space: Ellen Ochoa. But there are far more Latinas who work at or for NASA. And while the goal of having more Latinas in space is an excellent one, it’s far more important to celebrate the women working on the ground — doing science, designing equipment, etc.
To encourage more young Latinas to pursue a career in STEM, it’s important tell the stories of those who’ve come before them. Representation matters! As Dr. Patricia Gándara, The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, says in this excellent video from the Eva Longoria Foundation, “there is often a lack of role models in these communities — somebody who has already gone to college and been pretty successful in one area or another.”
Olga D. González-Sanabria
Olga D. González-Sanabria is a Puerto Rican scientist and inventor, and the highest ranking Hispanic at NASA Glenn Research Center, where she serves as the Director of the Engineering and Technical Services.
Among her many other accomplishments, she played a key role in developing the Long Cycle-Life Nickel-Hydrogen Batteries, research for which contributed to the development of the power system for the International Space Station.
She was born in Puerto Rico. She attended the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, where she earned a BS in Chemical Engineering. She earned a MS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toledo in Ohio. In 1979 she took a position at NASA’s Glenn Research Center as chief of the Plans and Programs Office, reporting directly to the Director.
In 2002 she was named Director of the Systems Management Office at NASA Glenn. She was also named a member of the U.S. government’s Senior Executive Service, the civilian equivalent to the rank of general or admiral.
Some of her honors include the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. She also received the Women of Color in Technology Career Achievement Award, and an R&D 100 Award. In 2003, she was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2007 she was recognized by the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference for her “Executive Excellence.”
Olga D. González-Sanabria biography on Wikipedia
Olga D. González-Sanabria profile on NASA Glenn website
Miriam Rodón Naveira
Miriam Rodón Naveira is an environmental scientist working in the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, where she coordinates between different programs run out of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, and the State of California, as well as universities, Indian tribes and other national and international entities, to support the integrated use of remote sensing instruments in aerial platforms.
She was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, into a family of trailblazers. Her mother, Miriam Naveira Merly was the first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. After graduating from the Academia Perpetuo Socorro High School in San Juan, Miriam attended Georgetown University where she earned a BS in Psychology, and a PhD in Biology-Earth Science Micro-Ecology.
Before joining NASA, she was already a ground-breaking Latina in science. In 1990, she worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency as a Biologist, Project Officer, and Environmental Research Scientist. In 1995, she became the first non-white female to serve as Branch Chief within the National Exposure Research Laboratory, and in 1998, she became the first Latina woman to named Deputy Director for the Environmental Sciences Division there.
She joined NASA in 2000, as an Earth Science Remote Sensing Scientist at Dryden Flight Center in California, where she conducted research to collaboration between different project groups. As Science Lead, she was instrumental in the development of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle programs.
Miriam Rodón Naveira biography on Wikipedia
Miriam Rodón Naveira profile on NASA website
Dr. Yajaira Sierra Sastre
Dr. Yajaira Sierra Sastre is a nanotechnology scientist, educator, and aspiring astronaut.
She is the only Latin@ selected as part of a six-person crew for a four-month long, Mars analog mission funded by NASA.
She was born in Puerto Rico, and early in her childhood dreamed of becoming an astronaut. After high school, she attended the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, where she earned a BS in Chemistry. She then earned her PhD in Materials Chemistry and Nanotechnology at Cornell, while also teaching high school chemistry.
She applied to the astronaut program in 2012, and while she has not been officially selected for space training, she has already participated in a study that measures astronaut needs. To test new foods and food preparation processes to help ensure the health and safety of future astronauts deployed on longer missions, like a trip to Mars, she and other astronaut-like candidates were selected to participate in a four-month long program where they were locked into a type of flight simulator with little access to the outside world. The mission began in March and ended in August of 2013.
When not working on various suborbital and nanotech projects, she is a strong advocate for educational and professional opportunities for disadvantaged communities in Puerto Rico.
Yajaira Sierra Sastre biography on Wikipedia
Yajaira Sierra Sastre profile on Hawaii Space Exploration Analog & Simulation
Dana Bolles manages a number of tasks including Risk Management, Data Accessibility, and Information Management for the Program Integration Office for Human Research Program, which is conducts research and develops technologies that allow humans to travel safely and productively in space.
Dana, who was born without arms or legs, has spent her entire life using a wheelchair. When she was a little girl, she dreamed of becoming an astronaut because, as she reasoned, no one needed a wheelchair in space. As a child in the 1970s and 80s, she did not have access to many support programs for people with disabilities, and as such she had to forge her own path. She did well in high school, and attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, for two years, before transferring to California State University, Long Beach, where she earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering. She then earned her MS in Rehabilitation Engineering and Technology from San Francisco State University.
She began her career at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as a flight systems safety engineer, working on payload projects for the Mars Orbiter and the assembly flight for the International Space Station. Three years later she moved to the NASA Goddard Space Center in Maryland to work as a fire protection safety engineer for two years.
In 1999, she moved again, this time to Nasa Ames Research Center. Initially she worked as an environmental compliance specialist, managing programs that monitor air quality, industrial wastewater, toxic gases, and above-ground storage tanks. In this role, she served as a liaison between NASA and local, state, and federal environmental regulatory offices, and managed the tracking of environmental impacts.
Prior to her her current position, she also served on the Speakers Bureau Program in the Education and Outreach Branch, coordinating NASA speakers for events and assisting in special outreach projects, as well as serving for several years as the Chair to the Employees with Disabilities Advisory Group.
“We don’t always have control over what happens in our lives, but we do have control over how we deal with it. I could have easily decided to do nothing with my life and in general, society would have excused it. But why spend my life being miserable when there’s a whole world of opportunities to have a wonderful life?”
Dana Bolles profile on Latina Women of NASA
Dana Bolles profile on NASA website