Dr. Yajaira Sierra Sastre
Episode 48: Connecting the Dots all the Way to NASA…and Beyond! With Dr. Yajaira Sierra Sastre
Meet Dr. Yajaira Sierra Sastre, a Chemist who dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a little girl, and crated the opportunities that landed her a job at NASA.
Dr. Sierra Sastre was born in Puerto Rico, and grew up looking at the night sky and pondering what was out there. She dreamed of becoming an astronaut since she was a kid, and embarked on experiences that enabled her to eventually land a job at NASA.
After graduating from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, Dr. Sierra Sastre became a teacher, and although her tenure was short-lived, she is a lifelong educator and is highly involved in STEM outreach activities.
She then left the comforts of the tropics to pursue a PhD in Nanomaterial Sciences at Cornell University, and was excited about winter, because she once dreamed of living in Alaska! Being uncomfortable isn’t something she shies away from, which is how she ended up living at the bottom of a volcano, simulating the living conditions future humans will encounter in Mars.
Throughout her career, Dr. Sierra Sastre never stopped pursuing her dream of becoming an astronaut and applying for jobs at NASA, but for most of her career, those applications didn’t materialize. However, she never gave up, and after 5 years of working as a project manager at the U.S. Money Factory, she finally joined NASA to support multiple missions, including the Mars Sample Return Mission that will bring samples back to earth collected by the Perseverance Rover.
Dr. Sierra Sastre embodies the resilience and perseverance characteristic of the Latinx community. She encourages us to recognize that our culture is an asset and that our multiculturalism brings tremendous value to organizations.