Dr. Ellen Ochoa is an accomplished researcher, inventor, STEM education advocate, astronaut, and the first Latinx female to travel to space.
Dr. Ochoa was born on May 10, 1958 in Los Angeles, California. After earning her B.S. in Physics, she went on to earn an M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering (Optical Information Processing) from Stanford University. Dr. Ochoa applied her expertise to the development of optical systems as a research engineer and inventor at Sandia National Laboratories and at the Ames Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She holds 3 patents in the area of optical information processing.
In 1990, Dr. Ochoa was selected by NASA to participate in its astronaut program. When she completed her training in 1991, she became the first Latinx female astronaut and went on to complete four space shuttle missions. Dr. Ochoa has received many awards including the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award and the Distinguished Service Medal, NASA’s highest award. When she retired in 2018 she was the Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Dr. Ochoa currently serves on several boards including as chair of the National Science Board, which runs the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Ochoa has numerous publications in technical journals and has spoken on the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in over 300 presentations. Among her messages, Dr. Ochoa encourages students from groups that are underrepresented in STEM (including women and BIPOC) to use the internet as a resource. She advises that with some effort students can find mentors and organizations that are willing to support their STEM pursuits as well as information on people from similar backgrounds who have chosen STEM careers.