Latinas in STEM: The Story of NASA’s Diana Trujillo

By Rebecca Hansborough

It’s a classic coming of age story with a twist ending in space, Diana Trujillo’s journey is very similar to several members of the Latin community, who moved to America at the prospects of a better life. After briefly studying in Columbia, Trujillo immigrated to this country with only $300 in her pocket at the meek age of seventeen. It was during her attendance at Miami Dade College studying English where she came across a magazine highlighting the work of women in NASA, that she found her true calling.

From that day on she decided that aerospace engineering would become her passion. With the support of her friends she set out to apply for the NASA Academy, she was the first Hispanic immigrant woman to be accepted in the program and was offered a full time job after the completion of the program. After graduation, she joined the NASA team at the Goddard Space Flight Center in the Constellation program and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on human and robotic space missions (BELatina, 2020).

“It is more about what your enthusiasm, your passion, and if you are determined to do what you want to do in your life, you will find a way.”

Diana Trujillo of Mars NASA, 2020

She would continue her career and eventually join the Curiosity Operations Safety team as a systems engineer for the notorious Mars Rover mission. Her main objective was to ensure the development of a dust removal tool that made it easier for Mars’s surface to be observed. 

Since then, Trujillo remains at the helm of the surface testing operations at NASA and a leader in the Tech industry. Last year, she worked on the Mars Perseverance Rover robotic arm, furthering her dedication in NASA’s quest to discover the possibility of life on Mars. As flight director of the Mars 2020 mission, she helped put the Perseverance on the surface of the planet on February 18, 2021.

With the ever growing increase of Latina and other POC girls and women becoming interested and pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), stories like Trujillo’s are incredibly important. She has used her experience to inspire young women, specifically Latin and African American to follow her footsteps in STEM fields through several initiatives.

Hers is a story of perseverance and commitment and as Trujillo states herself, ‘It is more about what your enthusiasm, your passion, and if you are determined to do what you want to do in your life, you will find a way” (Mars.NASA, 2020)

Sources: From Colombia to Mars, NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, mars.nasa.gov. April 30, 2020. Meet Diana Trujillo, the Colombian Who Hunts Life on Mars, Yamily Habib, BELatina.com, August 5, 2020.

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