Stephanie Rocha

Research Associate, International Space University

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It is the hard stuff that makes it all worth it at the end!

What do you do?

Spacecraft design of passive thermal control systems for lunar environments.

Why did you choose this field?

I knew I wanted to become an engineer when I was 13 years old. At that age I was in a summer camp designed to teach math, physics and engineering by making it fun. I learned how to do basic code, design model rockets and so much more. I am the first in my family to go to college, and the very first engineer as well. It was challenging at times but I had amazing role models at school and at home of perseverance. I was president of two student organizations, one with an engineering focus, and that helped me reach my goals. I went on to intern at NASA for one semester testing rocket engines, and it was then when I decided to stay and grow in the space community. In 2018 I moved to France to attend the International Space University where I was able to apply my skills and learn more in an international scale. It was a wonderful opportunity to grow academically and professionally. I consider myself a hardworking individual that also happened to be at the right place at the right time.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I grew up in a small town, so my biggest dream back then was to be able to go to college! I am the daughter of immigrants, and their hard work emphasized the importance of education. My parents made sure that my sister and I had everything we needed within their means, but always reminded us that in this life, a college degree opens doors you might be too scared to knock. I would tell younger me to dream bigger, since now I know that anything really is possible with hard work and determination. To not be scared, and that I am very proud, because she was able to make it despite all the obstacles since day one.

Why do you love working in STEM?

Given that STEM is composed of mostly men, being able to go to work and serve as a role model for the students and faculty there makes me feel needed and in the right place. I am essential.

Best advice for next generation?

All the math and new concepts may seem like a foreign language, but it does to everyone in the beginning! It is amazing to learn new things and understand the world from a different perspective with the help of science, technology, engineering, and math. It is the hard stuff that makes it all worth it at the end!

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Learn as if you had to live forever.”

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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