Dr. Vanessa Aponte has used a systems engineering approach to bridge her interests in chemical engineering and space travel.
Growing up she says that she knew she always wanted to work for NASA, but she just wasn’t sure in what capacity. Earning a BS in chemical engineering from Universidad de Puerto Rico she began trying to connect her passions during graduate school, tying her chemical engineering to space applications by studying the health of astronauts in the field of bioastronautics. As part of this work she developed new biosensor technology that monitors astronauts’ immune systems by allowing for fast, minimally invasive measurement of certain immune markers.
Pursuing her doctorate in aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado she was hired by NASA as a graduate intern. But upon graduating with her doctorate in 2006, while she was offered a position at NASA, she instead took a job at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.
Working as a Senior Systems Engineer as part of the System Design Integration Team for NASA’s Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle she has been able to have top level knowledge of what every part of the spacecraft does and how it interacts with the other parts. The last two of the six years she worked on the Orion she was also responsible for the development of Hardware/Software integration and test plans as well as being a Cost Account Manager.
In May 2012 she began transitioning to a positon as a Systems Engineering Associate Manager at Lockheed where she was responsible for leading and ensuring flawless execution of the Corporate LM Fellows Program. Since March of 2014 Aponte has been the Chair of Lockheed Martin’s Technology Insertion Board. This team is made up of technical experts in the evaluation of new technologies including new materials, software, mechanisms, and other electrical parts for spaceflight programs. The team’s goal is to minimize the risk of using the new technologies into critical U.S. on-orbit assets.
In April of 2016 she was awarded the Colorado University Engineering Recent Alumni Award.
Suggested by: Marleen Sundgaard
Written by Angela Goad