As Valerie looks back on her life and career, all she can say is “not bad for a farm girl from Wisconsin. ” She cannot say she ever dreamed of working for NASA; however, she is extremely thankful that her journeys led her here. Her career choices did not seem to be suitable for the highly technical science and engineer-oriented agency. Yet, she was never so wrong. NASA encompasses all types of disciplines including education and accounting. What a break for Jill!2013
For Crystal Leathers Jones, growing up surrounded by drugs, crime and poverty made her dreams of working for NASA seem unreachable. Through her determination, hard work and perseverance, Crystal was able to change the course of her life and blaze a path of success that her siblings and others growing up in similar situations could follow.2013
Maybe it is not surprising that Deborah ended up in engineering. Growing up, she loved math and science in school. Algebra is one of her favorite things. There is also the influence of her family: her dad is an electrical engineer and her mom is a chemist.2013
Growing up in a small Cajun town in Louisiana, Pam Bourque had no idea that she would one day become an attorney and work for NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center. As a child she loved school, and her parents encouraged her to work hard so she could get a scholarship to college.2013
In elementary school, Jill was that girl who loved Barbies, but mostly because she was all about modifying and constructing new and improved versions of her ‘Dream House’ from whatever she could find. Her family spent most of their weekends sailing together on the Chesapeake Bay. Looking back now, she realizes that it was her desire to design and build improved structures and her respect for teamwork that led her to find her dream career in aerospace engineering.2013
Linda’s earliest memory of space was hearing about the Russians and Sputnik and monkeys flying in space. The world was much different then. There was no Internet or Google. Television offerings were limited, but this was big news at the time. Little did she know that one day NASA would be in her future.2013
Dr. Valerie Meyers was exposed to the idea of human spaceflight at family gatherings where her uncle, who worked at Link Flight Simulation in Houston, talked about his job developing simulators to train astronauts. Her personal journey to NASA began in fifth grade when an article in Weekly Reader magazine mentioned NASA would be looking for people with doctorate degrees in chemistry, physics, mathematics, and astronomy to work on a space station they were developing.2013
For Monica Ceruti, the trick has been to learn how to balance work and family without compromising either. Today, in addition to having a rewarding home life, her two sons are on the road to having rewarding careers: her oldest son is a college graduate and her youngest son is a cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy.2013
Monica’s mother’s example taught her that hard work pays off. She was a single parent raising five children, and she remains Monica’s inspiration. From her mother, she learned three fundamental life lessons: to be true to herself; to be honest, regardless of the situation; and for every blessing she receives, to help someone else.2013
Growing up, Victoria Garcia had a knack for being the “handyman” of the family. Being deaf and a daughter of Cuban immigrants motivated her to work hard to prove herself. Today, she uses her problem solving skills performing analysis as a system engineer.2013
Debbie always wanted to play the piano. It was the love of her life. While other kids were playing outside, she was inside practicing. It was the same in music college and playing with the band. She missed countless parties, holidays, and many life-changing events because she was working. But the sacrifice was worth it for her.2013
Hibah Rahmani was born in Pakistan, raised in Kuwait and moved to the United States after high school. Being fascinated with the beautiful night sky, she developed a passion for science, space and astronomy at a very young age.2013
Before coming to NASA, Terrian Nowden worked part-time in the Co-operative Education Office of the junior college she’d been attending. One of her duties was to receive incoming calls from employers who wanted to list co-op positions for the students. When NASA Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center (GRC) at Lewis Field) called to post various technician positions, she was very excited.2013
As a child, one of Roberta’s favorite memories was when her whole family gathered around the TV to watch the Apollo missions to the moon. She vividly remembers when Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong said those magic words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”2013
Born and raised in a suburb outside of Sacramento, California, Katie grew up in a close-knit family and had a very happy childhood. She absolutely loved school and learning, and when she was in 5th grade, Katie had the opportunity to attend a week of Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama which sparked her love of NASA.2013
Despite being a Houston, Texas native, Janelle Holt thought that only engineers and scientists could work for NASA. She was introduced to NASA career possibilities for business students during a Career Fair at her alma mater, the University of Houston.2013
Rosemary Baize began her career in 1988, working as an aerospace technologist in wind tunnels at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. She supported tests on Pegasus boosters, was a project engineer and served as a facility safety head. But she didn’t stop there.2013
Growing up with six siblings, Annette Moore quickly grasped the appreciation for working as a team. Today she employs the principles she learned as a child in working with her NASA teammates in helping to accomplish the mission of the Agency.
The opportunity to explore Mars for signs of life is what inspired Dr. Jennifer Eigenbrode to join NASA. She wants to answer the question that has been asked for thousands of years — is “life” unique to Earth.
Andrea Meyer’s life was changed irrevocably when, on one cold Nebraska morning while practicing emergency landing procedures with her flight instructor, her airplane went into a flat spin before crashing into an empty cornfield.
For Karen Gundy-Burlet, Walter Cronkite’s broadcasts of the Apollo moon missions were particularly inspirational. The thrill of watching the moon landings and excursions extended her interest in aircraft to the aerospace field and a desire to work for NASA.
Catherine’s road to NASA began at an early age when she declared, in front of her classmates, that she wanted to be the first female astronaut. A young male student rebutted that girls could not become astronauts. Her teacher would have nothing of it, immediately looking at Ms. Bahm and ensuring she knew she could be whatever she wanted to be.
Growing up in an inner city as a child born into a single-parent household, Nanette Jennings’ hopes for a bright future seemed hopelessly compromised.
Taking advantage of opportunities and challenges has been the mantra for Julie Williams-Byrd’s career at NASA. These opportunities have allowed Ms. Williams-Byrd the ability to excel and to experience the career of a lifetime by working on exciting projects and working with exceptionally talented people from a variety of disciplines.
My interest in space stems from my belief that what we have done, are doing, and can do in space is critical to the future of humanity. Throughout my career—whether it was working directly for NASA, training in Russia to become a space flight participant, advising aerospace corporations how best to help NASA be successful, or having the honor of being the lead for civil space policy for the Obama Presidential Campaign and transition team—I have worked toward that goal.
Judy Ballance grew up on a rural farm in northern Alabama, and like most kids around her, she never dreamed that she would work for NASA. Her only childhood experiences related to NASA were watching the moon landings on TV and looking at an exhibit of moon rocks that came to her school.
For Elia Ordóñez, giving back to her native Hispanic community is paramount in her life. Ms. Ordóñez was born in Moctezuma, Chihuahua, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States in 1974.
For Darlene Y. Boykins, her path to NASA began as a cooperative education (co-op) student for NASA. Ms. Boykins was born in Washington, D.C. and is a native Washingtonian.
For Diane Sims, Hurricane Katrina was a not only a moment of destruction and guilt but also of belief and compassion in the human spirit. She recalls, “I remember having a huge sense of guilt because my house survived, and I was the only one in my office that wasn’t displaced.”
For Lelia Vann, moving forward in her life meant stepping back from everything she had worked so hard to accomplish, and asking the big question: Why?
As the mother of three daughters and spouse to a NASA employee, Anita Douglas had to quickly learn how to balance work and family without compromising either. Today, in addition to having a rewarding home life, all three of her daughters are in college.
For Mary Ann, her path to NASA began as a cooperative education (co-op) student in 1974. She hailed from the University of Maryland in College Park as she found her place at NASA. Little did she know that she would lead two careers, one at NASA and one in the Navy Reserve.
Anne-Marie Novo-Gradac is a planner—one who puts an extraordinary amount of effort into mapping out what should happen next in life. So perhaps it’s a bit ironic that all planning in the world ultimately landed her in a career that she never dreamed she would achieve
For as long as she can remember, Jennifer Cole has been “hooked on anything that flew” – from the roaring A-10 Thunderbolts and A-4 Skyhawks to the thump-thump-thumping helicopters that flew over her home near Willow Grove Naval Air Station outside of Philadelphia, Penn., to the space vehicles of her professional life.
As a child, Ginger Kerrick dreamed of growing up to be either a basketball player or an astronaut. When neither dream came to fruition, Ms. Kerrick developed a fresh perspective – best summed up by the phrase “It just wasn’t meant to be” – and is today part of NASA, serving in the Mission Control Center at the NASA Johnson Space Center as a Flight Director.
Karen Rodriguez is known as a talented project manager. But as a teenage mom, she was often told she would never amount to anything. With determination, dedication, and the support of her husband, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University.
While Neil Armstrong was taking his first steps on the surface of the moon, a 6-year-old girl named Huy Tran was climbing a tree. She wanted to climb high enough to watch the historical event unfold through a part in the palm roof of someone else’s home in Vietnam, and she achieved that goal.
Although Clara Wright had to learn a new language and adapt to a different culture and the age of 8, when her family moved from Colombia to the United States, she was always fluent in the language of hard work, perseverance, and integrity – thanks to the example set forth by her parents.
For Wendy Holladay, the trick has been to balance her large family of 6 with her fast moving career at NASA. To accomplish both, she spent 20 of her 29 years at NASA Stennis Space Center as a part-time employee. And, for Ms. Holladay, it has made all of the difference.
Wanda Peters remembers, as a child, having her cartoons interrupted by the Apollo 11 lunar landing. While it was an unwelcomed interruption at the time, those feelings only lasted a moment; however, the impression that the landing made on her young mind would last a lifetime.
Robin Henderson’s life changed forever and for the better when, in her first year of college, a man offered her the opportunity to serve as a co-op student with Martin Marietta, then a NASA Marshall Space Flight Center contractor
Connie Snapp aspired to be an artist and a writer with the long-ago dream of writing and illustrating her own books. She would never have predicted that she would one day work for NASA.
Although Tarrie Hood longed to be part of NASA, a “world-class organization in which cutting-edge technology was the standard and is created and used daily,” she faced several stumbling blocks: not the least of which was the loss of her mother when she was 14 years old and becoming a parent at the age of 16.
Melanie Saunders found out, in the most joyous way, that “work-life” balance can be tipped – in triplicate – in the direction of “life” when she discovered that she was pregnant with triplets. Being the high achiever she has always been, Ms. Saunders found a way to put family first without putting her career on permanent leave.
Dinna LeDuff Cottrell, whose professional life has been focused on information technology, believes “the key to increasing the number of women and minorities in information technology careers begins by mentoring future generations.”
Christine Belcastro long aspired to become an engineer but, as a female, thought the door was closed to her. Imagine her thrill when a college counselor enabled her to cross the threshold into NASA as an electrical engineer.
As an engineer and a project manager working in aircraft flight research, Laurie Grindle is familiar with the saying: “You can learn more from failure than success.”
When Sabrina Thompson was trying to decide on a college major, one of her high school teachers informed her that the science and math courses required for a mechanical engineering degree would be too hard for her. Instead of taking his advice, she accepted it as a challenge and set out to prove him wrong.
Jennifer Heldmann studies recent water on Mars through spacecraft data analysis, numerical modeling, and fieldwork in Mars-analog environments. Perhaps more exciting for her personally are her studies into the moon, with “a focus on improving our understanding of the lunar poles.”
Hashima Hasan’s love for space started when as a five-year old she stood in her grand parents’ backyard in India and watched Sputnik go by overhead. She had no idea how she would achieve her dream to become a scientist and attend Oxford University, as her uncle and grand uncles had done. But achieve it, she did.
Janet Petro took an impressive step when, at the age of 17, she began leadership training at the highly esteemed United States Military Academy at West Point at a time when women had just begun to be accepted into the nation’s military academies.
If someone were to try to keep up with all of Jill Noble’s activities, accomplishments, and contributions to the community, they’d need a more powerful machine that even NASA could build. They would also need a positive outlook, a strong moral compass, and an impeccable work ethic—qualities her parents instilled in her, early on.
Gwen Young was a military brat and moved a lot during her childhood. Making friends was difficult, but a young Gwen found solace in school, excelling in math and science.
Diep Nguyen’s life took a major detour on the morning of April 30, 1975, when she boarded a helicopter piloted by a friend—now her husband—with the intention of spending the weekend with her mother
Jeanette Le’s road to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California started in Vietnam, which she, with her parents, fled when she was 8 years old – leaving Ms. Le with the feeling that she is, in her own words, the eternal “new kid on the block.”
The daughter of an educator and an aeronautical engineer, Kathleen Howell grew up in southern California with varied influences, among them interests in dance, mathematics and aviation.
Dorothy “Dottie” Metcalf-Lindenburger, the daughter of two teachers with a love of the space program, has “The Right Stuff.” As a NASA astronaut who flew with the crew of STS-131 to the International Space Station, Ms. Metcalf-Lindenburger has risen to heights that make those of the Mile High City of Denver, in which she grew up, pale by comparison.
Pamela Marcum’s journey to becoming a NASA scientist began in a rural coal-mining community in eastern Kentucky. A public school system weak in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum, and a lack of mentors to provide career guidance resulted in her path being everything but a well-chartered course to a pre-defined destination.
For Cristine Dundas, eight years of waitressing was all she could take. She knew it was time to make a change in her life and go to college. Ms. Dundas started her career with NASA as a management support assistant. While attending college for her two-year degree in the secretarial field, she came across a flier about NASA looking for cooperative education (co-op) students.
Maria Nowak’s search for a broader meaning in life took her from the floor of a 1950s-themed restaurant where she worked as a dancing waitress, to the esteemed grounds of NASA where she has taken a leading role in the field of physics.
For Ramona Travis, her ultimate destination had little to do with astrology, and everything to do with commitment, drive, and a natural curiosity about our own Earth and what’s beyond.
Seeming coincidences may not be accidental. Giving a lab tour to a seminar speaker led to Mia Siochi coming to NASA Langley Research Center when that speaker happened to be the head of the Composites and Polymers Branch who was looking for someone to support its polymers characterization need of the branch.
When Charlene Butler was growing up, she, along with many other young people, thought that it would be cool to work for NASA one day. Little would she have guessed that her dream would begin to unfold during ninth grade for it was in Ms. Butler’s freshman year that she decided on a career in the Computer/Information Technology (IT) field.