Valerino in 2017
Early life and education
Valerino was born to a Mississippi Choctaw mother and African-American father. She grew up on the Mississippi Choctaw reservation and is an enrolled member of the tribe. When she was ten, she moved with her family to New Orleans. A few years later she saw the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion on television and became interested in science. Valerino learned cello at age twelve, and still plays in the Pasadena Community Orchestra. During high school, Valerino interned as a mechanical engineer as part of NASA's Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program, where highly achieving students shadow NASA professionals.
She obtained a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, and received her masters and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from Rice University. During summers at graduate school, Valerino interned at Johnson Space Center in Houston and Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi, where she worked on the X-38 vehicle (International Space Station lifeboat) team. Her dissertation, Optimizing Interplanetary Trajectories to Mars via Electrical Propulsion, was submitted to Rice in 2005. She was the first Native American to earn a PhD in engineering at Rice University.
Research and career
Valerino joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mission Design and Navigation Section in 2005. She first worked on the proposed Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter mission, then transferred to the Cassini mission, where she was a navigator with the maneuver and trajectory team. The Cassini mission far outlived the predicted four-year lifetime, with engineers like Valerino pushing it to thirteen years. Throughout the Cassini mission, Valerino shared the spacecraft status and findings with the public.
Valerino has worked to recruit and encourage the participation of under-represented groups in science. This has included working with Soledad O'Brien to encourage black and Latina young women to pursue careers in STEM at the PowHERful Summit. In 2016 she received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Education Award for her outreach activities. In 2017, Valerino joined 21st Century Fox in their promotion of the film Hidden Figures, which tells of the role of outstanding African-American mathematicians and scientists in the Apollo program.
Valerino is a fan of comic books. She has also discussed strong women in graphic novels on podcasts.
- "Meet Powtawche Valerino: NASA JPL Navigation Engineer Who Personifies Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance". 2017-05-31. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "Reaching for the stars | Rice Engineering". engineering.rice.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "Cellos - Pasadena Community Orchestra". Pasadena Community Orchestra. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "Academic diversity: expanding the pipeline". New Scientist. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "CCD STEMinar series - Caltech Center for Diversity". diversitycenter.caltech.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "Powtawche (Williams) Valerino, PhD". The National GEM Consortium. 2014-10-02. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- Neengay, Williams, Powtawche (2005). "Optimization of interplanetary trajectories to Mars via electrical propulsion". Bibcode:2005PhDT........56W. hdl:1911/18840.
- "Saturn With a Side of Bacon". Cassini Legacy: 1997-2017. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- Valerino, Powtawche N. (2014). "Updating the Reference Trajectory for the Cassini Solstice Mission". SpaceOps 2014 Conference. doi:10.2514/6.2014-1880. ISBN 978-1-62410-221-9.
- Ash, Summer (2017-09-21). "How a tiny space robot can change your life". Syfy. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- Knapton, Sarah; Horton, Helena (2017-04-26). "Nasa's Cassini spacecraft starts bold mission to dive between Saturn's rings". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- Chang, Kenneth (August 12, 2018). "Parker Solar Probe Launches on NASA Voyage to 'Touch the Sun'". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
- "ARO 309 (Winter 2017) Class Page". www.trylam.com. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- Jones, Drew R. (2016). "Solar Probe Plus: Force Modeling and Unique Navigation Challenges". AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference. doi:10.2514/6.2016-5425. ISBN 978-1-62410-445-9.
- "CaSGC Supports Fresno State's Lyles College of Engineering Girls Summer Engineering Experience | California Space Grant Consortium". casgc.ucsd.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "A passion for sharing | Rice Engineering". engineering.rice.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "Check out NAACP Pasadena 31st Ruby McKnight Williams Awards Dinner - 2016 at Hilton Pasadena on Oct 13, 2016". Eventful. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "Fox's 'Hidden Figures' inspires historic State Department program to support women in STEM around the world". 21st Century Fox Social Impact. 2017-11-02. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "AMPAS, NASA Talk Science, Movies and Diversity at SIGGRAPH". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "Hidden Figures/Modern Figures: A Journey of Breakthroughs in Cinema and Space Travel". Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "Sloan Science & Film". www.scienceandfilm.org. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "There's so much out there". ART19. Retrieved 2018-01-13.