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How this Fil-Am engineer rose through the ranks at NASA — Asian Journal News

How this Fil-Am engineer rose through the ranks at NASA — Asian Journal News
Josephine Santiago-Bond, the top of the Superior Engineering Improvement Department at NASA’s Kennedy Area Middle | Photograph courtesy of NASA Public Affairs

“I REALLY wasn’t fascinated by area,” confesses Josephine Santiago-Bond, whereas reflecting on her engineering schooling throughout a current interview with the Asian Journal.

The Filipina-American engineer by no means anticipated that her experiences would culminate in a profession revolving round missions and exploration in outer area.

It was 15 years in the past when Santiago-Bond first landed an internship on the Nationwide Aeronautics and Area Administration (NASA)’s John F. Kennedy Area Middle in Florida.

At this time, she’s the top of the Superior Engineering Improvement Department on the middle, a division she helped create that extends engineering help to the company’s numerous missions in area, on Earth and different planets.

Budding engineer
Born in the USA to oldsters pursuing their Ph.D. research, the household moved again to the Philippines a couple of months later, the place Santiago-Bond would develop up and research till school.

Coming from a household of scientists and docs, she was naturally curious concerning the science subject as properly. One among her earliest reminiscences was testing acids and bases on indicators her mom had introduced residence.

“I beloved the colour mixtures that I obtained from enjoying with that package, however it created a very vivid reminiscence that I feel actually influenced me to get into sciences,” she says in a NASA video.


At 12 years previous, Santiago-Bond handed the nationwide aggressive examination and was accepted as a scholar at Philippine Science Excessive Faculty, a selective public highschool that makes a speciality of science, know-how, engineering, and arithmetic (STEM) schooling and is taken into account the highest science faculty within the nation and top-of-the-line within the ASEAN area.

When it was time to use for school, she stated she was “undecided” a few main however was interested in engineering, notably digital and communications, after chatting with a former schoolmate who was a freshman learning that self-discipline on the College of the Philippines (UP).

“I couldn’t inform you what she stated however I keep in mind feeling actually enthusiastic about taking digital and communications engineering,” Santiago-Bond recollects. She enrolled within the five-year program at UP, the place she graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science diploma in that engineering specialty.

Different profiles written concerning the engineer have dwelled on her problem in some math programs as an undergraduate, however these shortcomings didn’t detract her from graduating and proving that she was meant to be on this area.

“I take satisfaction in being a product of Philippine schooling because it speaks to the top quality of schooling that’s out there within the Philippines and the way graduates can efficiently compete internationally,” she says.

Her first engineering job out of school introduced her to South Dakota for Daktronics, Inc., which designs sports activities merchandise like scoreboards. She concurrently pursued a grasp’s diploma in electrical engineering at South Dakota State College (SDSU).

“To be frank, my motivation was to get a U.S. schooling as a result of not solely was I making an attempt to get a job right here within the U.S. but in addition as a result of I had mediocre grades in undergrad and this was a do-over for me to go to grad faculty and get higher grades,” Santiago-Bond says.

NASA calling

“…I need to contribute not directly to the mission of area exploration,” proclaims Santiago-Bond.

She took on a second job as a analysis assistant beneath an advisor who acquired funding from NASA’s Area Grant Consortium. A chance to spend a summer time at Kennedy Area Middle (KSC), certainly one of NASA’s 10 subject facilities within the nation, introduced itself as a result of the college didn’t have a facility for the challenge she was engaged on that concerned hazardous gases.

“That was the second winter I had spent up there [in South Dakota] and it was fairly frigid so I used to be excited to spend the summer time with him at KSC,” she recollects.

Her interval at KSC, coupled with the Area Shuttle Columbia catastrophe in 2003, additional piqued her curiosity in NASA — as did making use of her engineering experience to aerospace analysis and improvement.

“I’m type of embarrassed to say previous to that incident, I didn’t actually find out about area shuttles and that there was an Worldwide Area Station orbiting round us,” Santiago-Bond says. “I felt very unhappy concerning the lives that we misplaced with Columbia and have become partially obsessive about the TV protection of the restoration.”

She provides, “If any good can come out of a catastrophe like that, I can say that was the purpose at which I actually began studying and getting about NASA and area basically.”

After spending the summer time in Florida, she utilized and was accepted as a graduate intern at NASA in 2004, the place she would go on to spend two semesters.

It quickly translated right into a full-time, post-grad supply a yr later as an electronics engineer during which she had a hand within the design of latest applied sciences and Constellation subsystems, and area shuttle floor system operations.

After graduate faculty, Santiago-Bond was provided a place as an electronics engineer at Kennedy Area Middle, the place she continues to work right now 15 years later as the top of the Superior Engineering Improvement Department. | Photograph courtesy of Josephine Santiago-Bond

“I selected to work right here and I’ve stayed…I’ve been right here about 15 years. The individuals round me are nice…to work with,” Santiago-Bond muses. “I take pleasure in dwelling on Florida’s coast and actually the most important factor is that I need to contribute indirectly to the mission of area exploration.”

Via the years, NASA has provided persevering with schooling and professional improvement, which she says have helped her grow to be “extra self-aware.”

She later transitioned to methods engineering with a graduate certificates program, which the company sponsored, to hone into extra of her recognized underlying strengths, comparable to with the ability to talk with a group of individuals and fixing technical issues.

“It’s nice to return to work every single day as a result of I might be myself and my values align with the group’s values. They all the time emphasize security, integrity, teamwork and excellence and people are issues I line up behind,” she says. “It’s very uncommon to seek out a corporation that carries a mission to drive and advance in science and know-how, aeronautics and area exploration with simply the quite simple want to reinforce information all for the good thing about mankind.”

One other profession milestone was being a part of the company’s Methods Engineering Management Improvement Program (SELDP) in 2012, a aggressive agency-wide program for high-potential system engineers to have entry to programs, workshops, teaching and mentorship.

This system positioned her in a year-long task at Ames Analysis Middle in Mountain View, California, which was a slower-moving and smaller surroundings in comparison with KSC.

Whereas there, Santiago-Bond was on the mission methods engineering staff for the Lunar Environment and Mud Setting Explorer (LADEE), a spacecraft mission that orbited the moon in 2013 to collect detailed info on the moon’s skinny environment and whether or not mud is lofted within the lunar sky. Her duties included making certain that the LADEE handed its follow-up evaluate and speaking with different NASA facilities concerned with the mixing.

Josephine Santiago-Bond and her husband Chris Bond stand subsequent to the Lunar Environment and Mud Surroundings Explorer propulsion construction at NASA’s Ames Analysis Middle. | Photograph courtesy of Josephine Santiago-Bond

“I’m proud to have been a part of the mixing and check of LADEE. It’s a spacecraft that orbited the moon for 5 months and deliberately crashed on the far aspect of the moon. The mission truly far exceeded the 100 days that it was meant to,” she displays. The mission lasted 160 days after it crashed onto the lunar floor in mid-April 2014.

In her almost 20 years on the area company, she shortly beams an inventory of a number of tasks she’s labored on: the tail-end of the historic Area Shuttle program, which led to 2011; and the formulation and launch of the Ares I-X in 2009, a 327-foot tall unmanned rocket that was a part of the analysis on the way forward for area exploration post-space shuttle.

Santiago-Bond poses in entrance of Area Shuttle Discovery in 2007. | Photograph courtesy of Josephine-Santiago Bond

She additionally contributed to a different lunar exploration mission referred to as Regolith and Surroundings Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction (RESOLVE), which had aimed to place a rover on the floor of the moon in 2017 for 9 days to map water ice and different compounds.

After the yr at Ames, she returned to KSC beneath the Floor Methods Improvement and Operations program and went on to be the chief of the newly shaped Superior Engineering Improvement Department.

“Out of all of these, my biggest supply of satisfaction is in establishing my present department from scratch,” Santiago-Bond says. “The organizational tradition change that goes with establishing a brand new department is by far tougher to me than any of the technical points that we needed to handle as a gaggle.”

On a typical day, her day is structured with scheduled conferences and administrative and technical duties, however she retains an “open-door coverage” for these beneath her supervision or spends time with them of their workspaces. “I take heed to them, problem-solve with them and supply them with constructive recommendations and I ask for suggestions. Once I’m not with them, I advocate for them with our stakeholders and to our administration,” she says.

Her management place comes with overseeing 21 engineers and three interns throughout numerous engineering disciplines, offering that “help for exploration, analysis and know-how throughout the company.”

“I all the time really feel that I’m valued, not just for my engineering and management expertise, but in addition as an Asian American and as a Filipina-American, who brings a singular set of experiences and concepts to the desk every single day,” she says. “I’m not the one feminine Filipina-American, nor am I the primary, who’s in a management place at NASA, which in itself makes me proud.”

She and her workforce presently have a portfolio of 70 tasks that should do with Earth (“to enhance duties…to allow them to be extra correct, quicker and safer”), Mars, the moon, and area basically.

For the extra complicated operations in area or one other planetary floor, Santiago-Bond facilitates engineering help the place she will “discover most alignment between what the challenge wants in time period of talent and what the strengths of my staff,” she explains, mentioning that she takes their profession objectives into consideration.

“On uncommon events once I discover that there isn’t a good match with anybody in my department, then I determine the place I can discover a higher match and I facilitate the negotiation,” she says. “Out of all of the various things I do in my job, the care of my engineers is an important facet…I’ve the duty of eradicating and figuring out the obstacles in my engineers’ method in order that they will concentrate on being the high-performing engineers that they’re.”

There are a handful of actions Santiago-Bond discloses that her staff is brewing, resembling sending hardware to low-Earth orbit and a moon exploration mission set for 2020 that would go into testing by later this yr.

“You may see our contribution in a satellite tv for pc servicing mission that’s set to launch in 2020. You’ll see us prolong the life span of an present satellite tv for pc although that satellite tv for pc wasn’t meant to be serviced in orbit. You’ll see some in-situ useful resource utilization — totally different tasks that permit us to plan long-term human presence on the moon or Mars,” she hints.

Taking the enormous leap
Santiago-Bond bears a way of obligation together with her id as a Filipina-American and the attitude she contributes to a big group like NASA. She beforehand served because the chair of the middle’s Asian Pacific American Connection Worker Useful resource Group.

“My management place additionally factors to how NASA values variety and apply of inclusion each day. I all the time really feel that I’m valued, not just for my engineering and management expertise, but in addition as an Asian American and as a Filipina-American, who brings a singular set of experiences and concepts to the desk day by day,” she says. “I’m not the one feminine Filipina-American, nor am I the primary, who’s in a management place at NASA, which in itself makes me proud.”

Josephine Santiago-Bond, left, chair of Kennedy Area Middle’s Asian Pacific American Connection (APAC) Worker Useful resource Group, and Alyssa Garcia, the group’s co-chair, converse to attendees on the annual Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month particular occasion in 2016. | Photograph by NASA/Kim Shiflett

“I really like that NASA’s insurance policies have assisted me in each as an engineering supervisor and as a spouse and a mother…” Santiago-Bond displays. “Wanting again, I by no means thought I might get so far as I’ve.”

Current knowledge from 2012 present that one-third of NASA’s staff are ladies, with 30 % supervisors and 20 % engineers, based on the Nationwide Ladies’s Historical past Museum. 5 years later, 37 % of the company’s new hires have been stated to be ladies. The rise comes as some progress when the company and STEM fields as an entire are historically male-dominated.

Whereas the company, like different STEM-related organizations, pushes to make use of extra ladies and people from numerous backgrounds, Santiago-Bond says ladies who’re concerned about being within the subject have to see different ladies already doing it. “I might advise them to discover a mentor, somebody who’s able to serving to them overcome, both actual or perceived obstacles stopping them from getting into the STEM area,” she says.

“The most important impediment in having extra ladies in STEM is the shortage of curiosity. Being requires them to image themselves in that state of affairs,” she says. “I might say to them, ‘don’t be afraid of being the one lady within the class…or the one lady within the assembly’ in the event that they’re truly working towards a technical career. A second lady will come alongside and they might have carried out her a favor by being the primary. Consider that they convey worth and simply go do it.”

With Ladies’s Historical past Month this March, it’s becoming to recollect the ladies who turned earlier than Santiago-Bond like Kitty O’Brien Joyner, the primary lady engineer at NASA; Dorothy Vaughan, the primary African American supervisor on the Nationwide Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NASA’s predecessor); Mary Jackson, the company’s first African American feminine engineer; Katherine Johnson, a mathematician whose calculations have been essential to the success of the primary U.S. manned spaceflight; Sally Journey, the primary American lady in area; and the late Angelita Castro-Kelly, a Filipina who was the primary lady to be NASA’s Mission Operations Supervisor for the Earth Observing System.

On the finish of this month, two ladies astronauts on the Worldwide Area Station, directed by lady flight controller, are anticipated to mark the primary time in historical past that an all-female crew will do a spacewalk.

“That’s very empowering to work in a office that embraces that variety and inclusion and provides us a chance to provide again to the nation and the world,” Santiago-Bond says.

As for extra profession benchmarks to hit? One other objective of hers is to do extra group outreach and be a shining instance that there’s no straight trajectory for a STEM schooling — and that there’s redemption after not-so-perfect grades as a result of studying is a life-long journey — in addition to proving that having a profession within the company is feasible whereas being a mom.

“It’s me now making an attempt to comply with my pursuit of work-life stability. My priorities have shifted through the years. I turned a spouse 10 years in the past and a mom 5 years in the past,” Santiago-Bond says. “I really like that NASA’s insurance policies have assisted me in each as an engineering supervisor and as a spouse and a mother. I can work anyplace and my time is fairly versatile inside the insurance policies and that permits me to proceed to provide my greatest to NASA and be there for my household when it issues. Wanting again, I by no means thought I might get so far as I’ve.”

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is the Managing Editor of the Asian Journal Weekly Newspapers.

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