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Dance with Serendipity at the 2013 Science Scholars Symposium on March 19

03/11/2013


Dance with Serendipity at the 2013 Science Scholars Symposium on March 19

The Annual Science Scholars Program Symposium Lecture will feature keynote speaker Dr. Yajaira Sierra-Sastre, a nanomaterials scientist, educator, aspiring astronaut, and chief science officer at Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. The lecture will take place on Tuesday, March 19, at 6:30 p.m. in Basil 135. It is free and open to the public.

In the lecture, “Dancing with Serendipity while Reaching for the Stars: How to create opportunity for a thriving life and career in science,” Sierra-Sastre will share her research trajectory from the bench to planet Mars and how creating opportunities can help us reach the thriving life and career we all long for.

Sierra-Sastre was selected from over 700 applicants to participate in a four-month long Mars analog mission in Hawaii. For the simulated mission, six crewmembers will live in a habitat under Mars-exploration conditions (e.g. with communication latencies and blackouts, in close quarters, under strict water-use rules, EVAs, etc.). The mission is intended to test new forms of food and food preparation strategies for deep-space travel. Her work in nanotechnology and educational outreach has been recently featured in the news, and she has been recognized for her work as well as her as aspirations to become the first Puerto Rican female astronaut.

A materials scientist and educator with 10 years of research experience in academic, federal, and private institutions, Sierra-Sastre received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and teacher certification from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. After college, she returned to her hometown of Arroyo and taught chemistry at her former high school. Soon after the year ended, she was awarded a summer research fellowship for teachers at Stanford University, where she discovered her passion for nanotechnology and returned home to work at the NASA Research Center for Advanced Nanoscale Materials at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras. After gaining valuable research experience, she decided to pursue her graduate studies at Cornell University and obtained a Ph.D. in Nanomaterials Chemistry in 2009. As part of her doctoral thesis, Sierra-Sastre worked as a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Upon graduation, she joined a nanotechnology start-up company where she developed coating processes for multinational clients in the military, environment, medical diagnostics, and textile sectors.

Sierra Sastre Photo


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