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Adriana Ocampo

Adriana Ocampo

NASA - Washington, D.C.

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Adriana's work combines: Science, Engineering, and Being Creative

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Day In The Life

Lead Program Executive, New Frontiers Mission

I oversee three missions under the New Frontiers program: to Pluto, Jupiter, and Bennu.

Skills & Education

Here's the path I took:

  • High School

  • Bachelor's Degree

    Geology/Earth Science, General

    California State University-Los Angeles

  • Graduate Degree

    Planetary Astronomy and Science

    California State University-Northridge

  • Associate's Degree

    Pasadena City College

  • Doctorate

    Planetary Astronomy and Science

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Here's the path I recommend for someone who wants to be an Aerospace Engineers:

High School

Bachelor's Degree: Geology/Earth Science, General

Graduate Degree: Planetary Astronomy and Science

Associate's Degree

Doctorate: Planetary Astronomy and Science

Learn more about different paths to this career

Life & Career Milestones

My path in life has been direct

  • 1.

    When I was young, my parents immigrated from Colombia to Argentina, then again to Pasadena.

  • 2.

    Even as a child in Argentina, I loved to go onto my roof and look at the points of light in the sky.

  • 3.

    I ended up writing a letter addressed only to "NASA"; it made its way there and they wrote back!

  • 4.

    NASA sent me back some Apollo 11 paraphernalia; that crystalized my interest in space exploration.

  • 5.

    But in school, I wasn't encouraged to go into the sciences; only boys could go to technical schools.

  • 6.

    When we eventually moved to America, my first question was, "Dónde está NASA?"

  • 7.

    Luckily, my Pasadena high school gave me the opportunity to intern at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.

  • 8.

    Now, over 35 years later, I'm still working for NASA. Anything is possible!

Defining Moments

How I responded to discouragement


    Messages from Society in general:

    A woman from South America isn't going make it at NASA.

  • How I responded:

    Whether it was because I was an immigrant or a woman, it always felt like I was in the minority in my field. For me, it's important for me to succeed and become a mentor so that I can show girls, "Look, you CAN do this!" Something in the sciences needs to change, because even today, women are getting discouraged from entering these fields. Yet, NASA is always looking for diverse talent...and even for female astronauts! So truly, there is a space for you in the sciences, and anything is possible.

Experiences and challenges that shaped me

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  • My family moved from South America when I was very young. I was very nervous because I had studied French rather than English in school, so I struggled with the language for a while.

  • I want to encourage young women to be curious, to ask questions and find answers, and to seek out female mentors at every stage of their life. Don't be afraid to succeed in science because you can truly achieve anything you put your mind to.