Vanessa Aponte Williams

Women in STEM
Women in STEM
Vanessa Aponte Williams

Specialty: System Engineering

Major Contributions:

Astronaut Candidate in 2009, 2012

Kalpana Chawla Outstanding Recent Graduate Award, UC Boulder

Director, Cross Program Integration, SLD at Blue Origin

Image: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

Dr. Vanessa Aponte Williams 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 in aerospace, but she just wasn’t sure in what capacity. Knowing that her home of Puerto Rico was lacking in educational opportunities in the field she concentrated on chemistry instead. 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, she was offered a position at NASA, but 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. 

Holding various positions at Lockheed Martin> she spent 16 years working on projects dealing with manned spaceflight. She moved to Blue Origin in 2022 becoming Director, Payloads, and Guest Services, Human Spaceflight in 2023. Dr. Aponte Williams leads her team in helping Blue Origin be part of the next steps in human-centric space flight.

NASA has twice invited her to be an Astronaut Candidate Interviewee. In April of 2016 she was awarded the Colorado University Engineering Recent Alumni Award, and she is an Executive Mentor for the Brooke Owens Fellowship.

Written by Angela Goad


LinkedIn: Vanessa Aponte

CU Engineering Magazine: Vanessa Aponte

Brooke Owens Fellowship: Vanessa Aponte Williams

See Also:

gmiSTEM: Vanessa Aponte (YouTube)

Alumni Volunteer Spotlight: Vanessa Aponte Williams, AeroEngr’06