Filipina American Becomes Department Head at NASA Despite Bad Math Grades Growing Up
By Kimberly Nguyen
June 17, 2020
Women make up only a third of NASA’s workforce, and Filipina American engineer Josephine Santiago-Bond is one of them.
Santiago-Bond is the head of the Advanced Engineering Development Branch that she helped create, and oversees a team of 21 engineers and interns according to Asian Journal.
She came from a family of scientists, although she herself had never considered a career in that area. She grew up naturally curious about the sciences, testing out acids and bases on indicators her mom brought home.
Santiago-Bond is the youngest member of a family of doctors, where contributing to society is a “mandatory” custom, according to her Women @ NASA profile.
She was born in the U.S. where her parents were earning their PhDs and later grew up in the Philippines.
“I’ve witnessed how they’ve achieved their career goals by having strong work ethic, and they have expected no less from me,” Santiago-Bond wrote.
She could not have imagined the moment she is having now.
“I REALLY wasn’t interested in space,” she told the Asian Journal.
During her studies, she had a summer opportunity to spend at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and quickly gained a passion and love for its surroundings.
“The weather, the palm trees and the beach were reminiscent of my younger years in the Philippines,” she wrote. “I fell in love with the passion of the people that I briefly worked with, and the exciting mission of the agency.”
She saw that NASA impacted everyone. Even when she was a child, she heard about the agency through old history books or television.
“One summer at Kennedy was enough for her to realize that NASA is relevant to everyone, whether they live in the United States or on the opposite side of the planet,” her biography said.
With an impressive amount of degrees and opportunities under her belt, she participated in the Foundations of Influence, Relationships, Success and Teamwork (FIRST) Leadership Development Program; was a research assistant for a project funded by NASA’s Space Grant Consortium; graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Electronics & Communications Engineering from the University of the Philippines; graduated with a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at South Dakota State University.
Santiago-Bond found her way to NASA.
Math did not come easy for the NASA head, who had sleepless nights practicing problems over and over again. She was determined to not let bad grades discourage her as she was studying during her time with the University of the Philippines’ Electronics and Communications Engineering program.
“I had to crawl my way through some of the courses, but I wasn’t going to give up on [my degree] because of a few bad grades,” she told spot.ph.
Between a decent amount of socializing, Santiago-Bond “practiced solving math and engineering problems until I was either confident enough to take the test or ran out of review time.”
“There were lots of sleepless nights, but strong friendships were formed, and my persistence eventually paid off,” she continued.
Pay off it did, as she would later contribute to projects at NASA including a lunar exploration mission called Regolith and the tail-end of the Space Shuttle program.
Santiago-Bond aligns herself with NASA’s mission to advance exploration.
“It’s great to come to work every day because I can be myself and my values align with the organization’s values,” she told the media group. “They always emphasize safety, integrity, teamwork and excellence and those are things I line up behind.”
Santiago-Bond is a product of family support and encouragement. She has an inner drive to pursue curiosity, which she encourages for all.
“I have experienced first-hand how an impressionable child can grow to love science and engineering by simply being exposed to it,” she wrote. “I believe that encouragement to pursue these careers from family and other institutions go a long way, and so does awareness of one’s capabilities and potential.”
Feature Images Courtesy of Josephine Santiago-Bond
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