A Puerto Rican Woman Is Now One of NASA’s Research Center Directors

Lead Photo: Art courtesy of Stephany Torres
Art courtesy of Stephany Torres
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Dr. Marla Pérez-Davis is now the director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Pérez-Davis will lead a team of over 3,200 employees in her new role with a budget of *checks notes* $933 million, according to WKYC.

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The University of Puerto Rico graduate was promoted on January 22, and the team is delighted to have her. “Dr. Pérez-Davis has the experience necessary to successfully carry out the mission of the facility… I look forward to working closely with Dr. Pérez-Davis as NASA Glenn enters into a new era of exploration, discovery, and job-creating innovation,” said Ohio U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine echoed the sentiment. “I appreciate both the scope of responsibility Marla has taken on and the estimable abilities she brings to the table as a longtime member of the Ohio community,” he wrote in a statement. “I look forward to working with her in her new position as we move forward to achieving NASA’s, and the nation’s, ambitious Moon to Mars exploration goals.”

Pérez-Davis’ list of accomplishments is rather extensive and impressive. The Puerto Rican doctor of chemical engineering has worked at NASA Glenn for over 40 years and has held various prestigious positions since, including deputy director and director of smaller teams.

She has won numerous awards throughout her career, including the Women of Color Technology Award for Career Achievement and NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal.

In 1993, Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina to go to space. She served in a role similar to Pérez-Davis’ in Houston years later, from 2013 to 2018. According to CNN, Latinxs make up about 1,500 of NASA’s 18,000 employees. About 500 of them are Latinas.