Diana Trujillo works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as an aeronautical engineer from Colombia. She is currently in charge of the engineering team at JPL that is in charge of the Perseverance Rover’s robotic arm. Trujillo hosted the first-ever Spanish-language NASA webcast of a planetary landing, the Perseverance rover landing on Mars, on February 18, 2021. But did you know that when she moved to the United States, she was just 17 years old?
Despite arriving in America as a 17-year-old immigrant with no English skills and only $300 in her pocket, Diana Trujillo worked her way up from housekeeper to an aerospace engineer at NASA.
Early Life and Education of Diana Trujillo
Diana Trujillo was born in the Colombian city of Cali in 1983. Her mother was a medical student when she became pregnant with her and had to drop out of school to care for her child. Trujillo then attended the International Baccalaureate, previously the International Baccalaureate Organization certified Colegio Internacional Caaverales. She showed a vast interest in science when she was in elementary school and questioned the roles that are generally connected with women.
Trujillo initially enrolled at the University of Florida to study Aerospace Engineering after being inspired by a magazine article about the role of women working on space missions and having faith in her strong math skills. She chose to apply for the NASA Academy while still a university student, becoming the program’s first Hispanic immigrant woman. She was one of only two people who were offered a job by NASA.
During her time at the Academy, she met NASA robots expert Brian Roberts, who convinced her to relocate to Maryland to improve her chances in the aerospace industry. At the University of Maryland, Trujillo studied robotics in space operations, where she worked on Professor Roberts’ research team.
She graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2007. Kari Cornell and Fatima Khan turned her story into a children’s science book called Mars Science Lab – Engineer. (Source: NASA)
Diana Trujillo’s Notable Accomplishments
In 2011, Trujillo received the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Shared the STEM Award. She was also awarded the City of STEM Icon Award in 2019. In 2017, the Colombian Embassy in the United States named her one of Los 22 Más, and she received the Bruce Murray Award for Excellence in Education and Public Management.
In 2021, she was elevated to the rank of Commander in the Order of Boyaca, Colombia’s highest honor for exceptional service to the country, and she was awarded the order of merit Policarpa Salavarrieta by the Colombian Congress.
The dream’s evolution will change, but the dream itself will not. And the dream does not change if you hold on to it and persevere in order to keep it.Diana Trujillo, NASA Engineer
What Does Diana Trujillo Do Today?
Today, Trujillo is the Technical Group Supervisor for Sequencing Planning and Execution and a Tactical Mission Lead for the Mars Perseverance rover. An image of Trujillo is currently up on the NASA website, celebrating the completion of a shift as a flight director. (Source: NASA)