Yajaira Sierra-Sastre

Scientist and Educator

Region:          Northern America

Field:              Science; Engineering 


Profile:     Dr. Yajaira Sierra-Sastre is a materials scientist and educator with fifteen years of R&D and project management experience in academia, start-up companies, and the United States Federal Government. Yajaira earned her B.S. degree from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez and her Ph.D. in Nanomaterials Chemistry from Cornell University. From exploring the properties of nanoscale materials to evaluating life support systems for future suborbital flights and missions to Mars, she is always excited about pushing the boundaries of innovation. Yajaira is currently the Project Manager for NASA’s Mars Spring Tires, Mars Sample Return Mission and also supports mobility testing of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory. In 2013, Yajaira served as the Chief Science Officer for the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, a four-month-long Mars analog mission. A teacher-turned scientist, Yajaira is extremely passionate about STEM education and has built multiple coalitions for the execution of citizen science initiatives in Puerto Rico and Latina America. She is an executive mentor for the Brooke Owens Fellowship program and the former Chair of the PoSSUM 13, a talented group of thirteen female space professionals serving as global ambassadors for STEM and space. Yajaira has been a highly qualified applicant for NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Program and aspires to become the first Puerto Rican woman to fly to space. As a researcher, she is motivated to contribute to space science. As an explorer, she is driven to the adventure of reaching far-away and extreme environments, and as an informal science educator, she hopes her quest to reach the stars will inspire the next generation of STEM professionals.