Diana Trujillo from Colombia was responsible for launching the Mars Perseverance Rover and is breaking barriers for women of color in STEM.
Meet Diana Trujillo, an aerospace engineer who currently leads a 45-person team at the NASA laboratory responsible for the robotic arm of the latest Mars rover. She didn't have the rosiest journey. As a young girl growing up in Colombia during the 1980s, a career in science seemed like a far-fetched dream. Nonetheless, she has persevered through several challenges, finally making her dream a reality. Trujillo first moved to the United States with $300 to her name and an unrelenting passion for science. This is how she rose through the ranks in a field dominated by White men, Good News Network reports.
When she moved to the U.S. from Colombia, @NASAJPL engineer Diana Trujillo didn’t speak English. Last week, she sent her second spacecraft to Mars & hosted the first ever Spanish language broadcast on @NASA_es. Her @NASAPersevere story inspires us all to shoot for the stars. ✨ pic.twitter.com/UA11UV1mIl— Women@NASA (@WomenNASA) February 26, 2021
She was born in 1983 and was certain that she wished to pursue a career in science. When her dad offered to send her to live with her aunt in Miami, Florida, believing that knowing a second language would advance her career prospects. Although she was only 17 years old at the time, she took him up on his offer and moved to the United States with $300. Soon, she took up a series of housekeeping jobs in order to put herself through Miami Dade College, where she studied Aerospace Engineering in addition to English.
Yesterday, @NASA aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo was honored by the President of Colombia, @IvanDuque, with La Cruz de Boyacá, one of the country's highest civilian honors, for her work on the @NASAPersevere mission. Congratulations on your recognition Diana! pic.twitter.com/ISZgOIn00E— Women@NASA (@WomenNASA) March 16, 2021
The journey was definitely not easy for Trujillo. Some days, she would have to take six different buses to get to class. Despite all this, she never complained about her challenges. "I saw everything coming my way as an opportunity," she explained in an interview with CBS News. "I didn’t see it as, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this job at night,' or, 'I can’t believe that I’m cleaning a bathroom right now.’ It was just more like, ‘I’m glad that I have a job and I can buy food and have a house to sleep [in]."
The only thing as exciting as seeing the @NASAPersevere rover land on Mars? Knowing an extraordinary woman in STEM helped it get there.— Melinda Gates (@melindagates) February 26, 2021
Congratulations, Diana Trujillo! Thank you for being an inspiration. pic.twitter.com/9pSicyobJ3
Then, one of Trujillo's professors at college casually mentioned that they were acquaintances with an astronaut. This made her realize she was "just one person away from knowing an astronaut," galvanizing her career goals. She continued her studies and was eventually admitted to the NASA Academy, making her the first Hispanic woman to be admitted. During her time there, she met robots expert Brian Roberts, who invited her to join his NASA space robotics research team at the University of Maryland (this is where she ultimately earned her Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2007). Trujillo performed so well that she was one of only two students to receive a job offer from the prestigious institution. She went on to become a team member at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Diana Trujillo is the aerospace engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory who leads the engineering team responsible for the robotic arm of the Perseverance rover. She was born in Colombia and arrived in U.S. as a teen w/ $300 & worked in housekeeping https://t.co/6hL9uGGlxy— Alexandra Chalupa (@AlexandraChalup) March 7, 2021
At NASA, Trujillo has worn many hats, such as Mission Lead for the Curiosity Rover in 2014. For this role, she was named one of the 20 most influential Latinos in the Technology Industry. Furthermore, in February this year when the Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars, it was accompanied by commentary from her. This became NASA’s first-ever Spanish-language transmission. Following this, she hosted NASA's first-ever Spanish language broadcast, Juntos perseveramos (Together we Persevere). While she has won several awards, her most recent win is the Congress of Colombia’s order of merit Policarpa Salavarrieta. Now, Trujillo continues to break barriers for women of color in STEM and encouraged women from marginalized backgrounds to pursue their dreams in this field, no matter how daunting it may seem.