My guest blogger this week is Nathalie Vilchis, a 22 year old Mexican Mechatronics Engineering student at the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey. Nathalie has her sights set on a career in space and in this blog she explains how she is going about achieving her dream.
The Path to the Dream
A few years ago I believed that the aerospace industry was an area of study reserved only for citizens of highly developed countries and brilliant minds that I could not compare myself to.
However, I never lost interest and curiosity in aerospace science and technology. It was not until I had the opportunity to participate in the International Air and Space Program at NASA (obtaining first place 2 years in a row) that I realized that to make my way in the aerospace sector I would need to be motivated, committed, very persistent anda highly qualified engineer but I did not need to be a genius.
Today I am studying my 8th semester of Mechatronics Engineering, receiving a 90% scholarship through Academic Talent recognition at the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey.
Although I could not study Aerospace Engineering as I had hoped at the beginning of my degree, I tried to get involved in everything related to aerospace issues as part of the Astronomical Society of the Tecnológico de Monterrey, where we disseminate space science and make it accessible to audience of all ages.
In addition, I got involved in aerospace technology research projects within my university which led me to a winter stay at Tokyo Metropolitan University. Similarly, I am part of the student group SPACE MAKERS, where we currently develop space projects such as satellites, rockets and rovers.
NASA internship journey
As soon as I saw the publication of the call to do a NASA research internship I was filled with excitement and a lot of hope.
I put a lot of effort into creating a good application, organizing my resume and especially highlighting my passion for space. This is an achievement that goes beyond submitting an application because it is the result of years of perseverance which constantly pointed to a single objective: Outer Space. I was just waiting for the opportunity to finally present itself!
Thanks to the profile that they managed to see in me, I was one of those selected from my university to do an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This will involve collaborating on the plasma drill project to drill through thick layers of ice at cryogenic temperatures in places like the poles on Mars and the frozen moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
However the road did not end there. I had to raise the necessary funds for living expenses during the trip which must come from sponsors. A few months earlier my friend Estefanía had created a successful fundraising project for a similar opportunity. She was the one who inspired me to launch a crowdfunding campaign where you publicize your story on the internet hoping that people will like it and can donate a little so that the final goal can be reached.
I called this project Chica NASA ( NASA Girl) and it consisted of a 3 minute video where I told my story and how the public could help me fulfill my dream. To my great surprise, the campaign did very well on social networks. I cannot express in words how immensely grateful I am to each of the people who decided to believe in me and supported me with a donation or by sharing the campaign over and over again. Thanks to them all I was able to make enough noise to find sponsors who helped me collect the remaining funds that had not been collected in the internet campaign.
As I mentioned before I can’t put into words how grateful I am to my community but I try to show this with actions. The Chica NASA project became an outreach project where I give free lectures and workshops about space science and technology with the intention of bringng young people closer to science.
On this path I have had the wonderful opportunity to connect with people from different parts of the world who are passionate about space. I have learned a lot from all of them and the most important thing is that I have realized that I am not alone on this path to space. When we help each other it is easier to reach the stars and we can only do this together.
We will take Latin America so high it will touch Mars and beyond.
For more information:https://www.facebook.com/Chica-NASA-110737117094070
Bruce Callow is a Canadian teacher and co-author of the books To the Stars: Costa Rica in NASA and The Intrepids: Costa Rican Women in Science and Technology. He does space education outreach work on behalf of NASA.