NASA Researcher Inspires

On Monday, November 15, Dr. Dionne Hernandez-Lugo came to Western Reserve Academy’s campus to speak at Morning Meeting about her work at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

Dr. Hernandez-Lugo was born and raised in Puerto Rico and has always harbored a deep passion for science. She left her home country for a fellowship with NASA as she was earning her doctorate degree, and this eventually led to a full-time job with them. At NASA, she has worked alongside chemists and engineers on groundbreaking projects, such as designing batteries for the agency’s X-57 electric plane. As of 2019, she was the Project Manager for kilo power at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, and she worked to create power systems for astronauts to live and work on the moon or Mars.

The Latino Student Union had the opportunity of having dinner with Dr. Hernandez-Lugo the night prior to her presentation. There, they discussed where everyone was from and what they were interested in studying. She also spoke of her experiences as a woman of color in a STEM field, explaining that anytime she was discriminated against, she used it as motivation.“All around it was a great experience to see someone like us be as successful as she is and represent us,” commented LSU member Jarissa Molina ’23.

The next day, she spoke at Morning Meeting and explained to the school more about her background and about some of the projects she is working on now. She is currently developing a fission power system to operate instruments on the moon, hopefully opening the door to deeper space travel. Additionally, she contributes work directly to the Artemis Program, NASA’s plan to send the first woman of color to the moon by 2024. This will mark the first time humans have landed on lunar soil since 1972. 

Later that day, students had the chance to eat lunch with Dr. Hernandez-Lugo to ask any further questions they didn’t get the chance to ask at Morning Meeting. From observation, Ms. Graham-Siphanoum — Frederick Douglass Fellow in the DEI Office — was “impressed by her ability to talk about anything and her efforts to make her research at NASA accessible to students…not well versed in extensive scientific vocabulary.”

It was an honor to host Dr. Dionne Hernandez-Lugo, and we look forward to seeing what she continues to accomplish in the future.

-Jimena Oliva ’22

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