Where did you grow up?
I was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. I lived in Puerto Rico for 21 years.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Science was my favorite subject in school.
Did you have a favorite teacher?
My favorite teacher was my sixth grade science teacher. I remember that she cared about me as a student even though I did not have the best grade in the class. She would listen to my “off the wall” ideas and never discourage them. She constantly challenged me to do my best.
What do you do?
I work with a team of engineers who design and test the water and air systems for the International Space Station (ISS). In the ISS, all the water the crew uses will be recycled. The water they use for showers and washing hands, and even the crew’s urine will be collected, cleaned and returned to the crew for drinking. Recycling the water means less water will need to be brought to them on the Space Shuttle Orbiter. This will allow the Orbiter to have more space for more experiments and other supplies.
As the microbiologist of the group, I make sure that the recycled water is safe to drink. A microbiologist studies living organisms that you cannot see. You can only see them under a microscope. These organisms include viruses, bacteria, yeast, molds and parasites. Some of these organisms can make you sick, but others are good for you. I help the engineers figure out how to test the crew’s water for bad microorganisms. We also make sure that microorganisms do not grow in the systems that provide clean air to the crew. This is important. Water and air are two of the most important things humans need to stay alive.
When I was your age…
I was very active in my school’s science fairs. The fairs helped me organize my ideas. A concept in my head would become a final display that explained what I did, and how I did it. I was lucky to have had a chance to interact with real scientists for some of my experiments. It was then that I realized that I really liked science. I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to work with living things.
When I got older…
In college I studied biology which is the science of living organisms. I was not sure what I wanted to do in biology. So, I took as many different biology classes as I could. I really liked microbiology so I started working in a microbiology lab for free, washing lab dishes and helping other students. Then, they hired me as a research assistant. After college, I decided to go back to school to specialize in microbiology.
Now, I have a really cool job…
Being a NASA scientist is like a dream come true. When I was in school someone dared to imagine a Space Station, and here we are building it. It is great to be part of the design of a “station on orbit”, where people will live for months at a time. Can you imagine the feeling of knowing that you are helping build the International Space Station? It is really cool! Imagine the future and go make it happen!
What are your hobbies?
I like to cook different kinds of foods (especially desserts) and do crafts. I also enjoy visiting museums and zoos.
Who is your hero?
My hero is my grandmother who recognized the importance of having a college education even at a time when that was not supposed to be a woman’s priority in life.