Words of Wisdom from Women in STEM: Rosa M. Valdés, PhD, Director of Research and Evaluation, LAUP | Los Angeles Universal Preschool and El Rancho High School Alum!

A Day in Space will be an excellent opportunity to talk with real engineers, rocket scientists and researchers and find out more about how they made it. We’re proud to include several women in the field, many of whom are first-generation Latinas. We spoke to a few to gain some insight on their background and what mindset has helped them succeed as a woman in the space or STEM industry.

It’s an honor to have El Rancho High School Alum, Dr. Rosa Valdés join our inaugural “A Day In Space” event. Dr. Valdés will be at the LAUP booth in the Space Fair hall helping to demonstrate STEM activities for preschool/PreK learners.

As a fellow “Donna,” we asked Dr. Valdés to share some pivotal moments in her career with us…

Looking back, as a young, first-generation female, what did you feel were your limitations or hesitations when thinking about the road to your career? Who or what made you realize that you could overcome those limitations.

I remember feeling like I had been admitted to college, then my graduate program, then eventually offered excellent research jobs because people felt sorry for me and wanted to give me a chance, not that I really belonged in those places. I lived in fear that at any moment, I would be discovered as not having enough talent and would be “kicked out” or “fired.” I have since come to understand that many young people starting their careers have this “impostor syndrome.” I was very lucky that several women along my path uplifted and affirmed me as a researcher, taking my ideas seriously and helping me to make real contributions to solve important problems.

Who were the inspiring women in your life and why?

I have a wonderful, loving and supportive mom, who showed me how to persevere in the face of significant life challenges. I internalized ethics of hard work, compassion, service, and tenacity through her guidance. There were also important women who took a chance on me, pulled me up into their environments, and mentored me to do their jobs. They gave me new tools, including self-confidence that made available to me whole new worlds in which to create opportunities for future first-generation people.


Words of Wisdom from Women in STEM: Krystal Puga, Spacecraft Systems Engineer with Northrop Grumman Space Systems Division

A Day in Space will be an excellent opportunity to talk with real engineers, rocket scientists and researchers and find out more about how they made it. We’re proud to include several women in the field, many of whom are first-generation Latinas. We spoke to a few to gain some insight on their background and what mindset has helped them succeed as a woman in the space or STEM industry.

Krystal Puga is a Spacecraft Systems Engineer with Northrop Grumman Space Systems Division in Redondo Beach, CA. She is a hardware deputy for the deployment mechanisms on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, whose mission is to observe the formation of the first galaxies, understand birth place of stars, image exoplanets and search for the very first light that formed in the universe.

Krystal is passionate about space education, as a founder of the Northrop Grumman High School Innovation Challenge; she has developed several engineering competitions to promote STEM education. Krystal developed a STEM High School Internship Program for students from underserved communities. She previously served as the president of the Los Angeles Mars Society, and created the annual Mars DAY STEM Initiative. Krystal has also served as a Hispanic Hero for the Los Angeles Hispanic Youth Institute since 2009.

Krystal’s advice to all potential STEM male or female students are:

  1. You can be successful in your career if you are passionate about your industry/trade.  That passion will drive how hard you work and will push you past difficult situations.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is a learning opportunity that will make you stronger.
  3. You don’t need to be a straight A student to be an engineer or scientist. You just need to be determined and work hard.

Krystal is a first generation Latina from Tulare, CA, an agricultural city in the San Joaquin Valley. She holds a Masters of Science in Astronautical Engineering from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida.

Krystal will lead the Breakout session: “Seeing the Universe in a new light with the James Webb Telescope,” where she will explain the new way we can see space, the birth of new galaxies, search planets for signs of life supporting atmospheres. This session is as visual as it is interesting and offers a Q & A opportunity at the end.


Words of Wisdom from Women in STEM: Meet Diana Trujillo of NASA/JPL’s Mars Science Laboratory

A Day in Space will be an excellent opportunity to talk with real engineers, rocket scientists and researchers and find out more about how they made it. We’re proud to include several women in the field, many of whom are first-generation Latinas. We spoke to a few to gain some insight on their background and what mindset has helped them succeed as a woman in the space or STEM industry.

Diana Trujillo was born and raised in Cali, Colombia, and as a young Latina she imagined exploring and traveling through space. At the age of seventeen, just one day after graduating from high school in Colombia, Diana immigrated to the United States to pursue her dream of one day working for NASA. She enrolled in English as a Second Language courses, worked three jobs as a housekeeper and supported her own full-time studies.

Since 2008, she has worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, contributing to both human and robotic space missions. Currently, she is Deputy Project System Engineer and Deputy Team Chief of the Engineering division of Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory), NASA’s largest and most advanced Mars rover. She is responsible for ensuring that Curiosity’s day-to-day plan meets the team’s science objectives while maintaining rover health and safety.  Previously, she has also served as Surface Sampling System Activity Lead, Dust Removal Tool Lead Systems Engineer, Flight Ground Systems Engineer, and Vehicle System Testbed Mars Surface Lead.

Diana is very passionate about sharing her story to inspire students to follow their passion. As a woman working in a predominately male industry, Diana shared three great tips:

  1. Celebrate that you are a woman! Sometimes we begin to think that since we work in technology, which is dominated by males, we start adjusting to how men think and react. Love yourself and recognize that you being there as a woman adds value! Don’t pretend to be one of the guys.
  2. Realize that you belong there. Don’t overcompensate and be proud of the fact that you belong in that room because of your hard work and dedication.
  3. Don’t separate your feelings from what is happening. One of the most valuable things we woman bring to the table is we tend to not compartmentalize what we feel, what we do and even the past experiences that shaped who we are. Apply the “whole you” because that also adds value. In the beginning of my career I wasn’t ashamed that I cleaned houses earlier in my life, but I wasn’t exactly proud. I didn’t want anyone to know because I didn’t want anyone to think I was less than him or her. But I realized that my earlier years were about survival. If you gave me a scrap, I made it work. That ability of thinking that I’m not going to give up and I’m going to work with what I have because I don’t have anything else really shaped how I think. I’ve carried that mentality to my workplace. If something isn’t working, I don’t start over from scratch—I think: “let’s work with what we have and make it work.”

Diana will share more of her story during the morning plenary session with NASA astronauts José Hernández and Mark Kelly, as well as Will Pomerantz, the Vice President for Special Projects at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

 


A Day In Space for Pico Rivera!

Last year when Generation 1st Degree- Pico Rivera hosted NASA astronaut José Hernández as a guest speaker, I was taken back by how our students were captivated by his story. You could hear a pin drop in the school auditorium because students ears were hanging on to Jose’s inspirational story of how he grew up as a farmer’s son in Stockton and rose “to the stars” through his studies and dedication to get into NASA.

When I saw the intense interest our Pico Rivera students had in engineering and aerospace, I knew I had to continue the momentum. This time I wanted to bring something to the community that would captivate even the youngest Pico Rivera resident.

I’m excited and thrilled that our inaugural A Day In Space event will be here in just a few weeks. Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 22nd at El Rancho High School and bring the entire family! We will have activities for preschool students all the way up to high school, college and even parents can explore!

The day will start off with four plenary speakers Astronaut José Hernández; Astronaut Mark Kelly; Diana Trujillo, JPL Engineer; and Will Pomerantz, Vice President Special Projects, Virgin Galactic, who will share their road to space. Then attendees will have an opportunity to participate in two smaller breakout sessions to learn more about space exploration, careers in space, and other STEM related topics. Finally, we will open up the El Rancho High School cafeteria for an interactive Space Fair with exhibits from Northrup Grumman, Los Angeles Universal Preschool, and several engineering programs from universities such as Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UCLA, UC Irvine and many more.

Reserve your spot now by registering HERE. The event is FREE and the first 500 attendees will receive gift bags.

Get ready to blast off…see you at A Day In Space!

Jacki Cisneros


Get ready for “A Day In Space” Breakout Sessions

 

What’s on Mars? Are we alone? What does a rocket scientist do exactly? How can I become part of a space exploration team?

If you’ve thought one or more of these questions to yourself, then be sure to check out the many Breakout Sessions during “A Day In Space!” Each Breakout Session provides an opportunity for a more intimate group of attendees to get the inside scoop on careers in space, rocket science, how to become an astronaut and so much more. Each session will be offered two times – at 10 a.m. and again at 11 a.m., which means you can choose up to two sessions!

Here’s what’s on board:

What’s On Mars?

JPL Engineer Diana Trujillo will discuss the Mars Curiosity Mission and what they have discovered about the planet Mars with a Questions & Answers opportunity at end.

 

Chat with an Astronaut

Here is your chance to ask NASA astronaut José Hernández everything you wanted to know about his journey to Space.

 

It’s Rocket Science

Learn what it takes to be a rocket scientist and what exactly they do. Nicole Lewis, a rocket scientist from Virgin Galactic will tell you all about her work. Q&A session allows you to ask any and all of your questions about rocket science! Additional guest speaker will be announced.

Why Do Humans Explore Space?

Have you ever wondered why humans are so curious about space? Listen to Virgin Galactic’s Will Pomerantz’ abbreviated TedX Talk on human’s fascination with space. Learn why we go to outer space, what we learn from outer and what’s next in space?

See the Universe in a new light with the James Webb Telescope

Krystal Puga, a systems engineer on Northrop Grumman’s James Webb Space Telescope project, will explain the new way we can see space, the birth of new galaxies, and how we are searching planets for signs of life-supporting atmospheres. This session is as visual as it is interesting with a Q & A opportunity at the end of session.

 

Students Studying Space

Get the inside scoop on what it is like to study the rigorous curriculum of space & engineering. Our group of college student panelist will talk about how they prepared themselves in high school and what courses are they currently taking in college to prepare them for a job in space. Get advice and expertise on what you can do now to be a future rocket scientist or an astronaut! Guest speakers will be announced.

Careers in Space

Do you like space exploration, but don’t want to be an astronaut? There are hundreds of other types of careers within the Space industry. If you want to become a member of a space exploration team without leaving earth, then this session is for you. Learn from from our guest panelists on what they do and the talent they bring to the new frontier! Fields of expertise include human relations, marketing and more! Guest speakers will be announced.

STEM for Preschool and PreK Learners

It’s never too early to prepare your children for Science Technology Engineering & Math.

LAUP (Los Angeles Universal Preschool) invites parents and their early learners to learn about fun ways to engage your child in STEM activities. Example activities will be provided and parents are welcome to ask the experts about the impact of early STEM learning.

Registration is open. Be sure to check our event page for breakout session updates, including new guest speakers and room locations.