On Wednesday July 20, EARTH received a visit from Sandra Cauffman, a Costa Rican who currently serves as assistant director of the Earth Science division at NASA. During her visit, we had the pleasure of listening to Cauffman give a personal speech about her life growing up in San José, her extensive studies, and how she achieved her goals in the USA.
The day’s agenda included a tour of the peri-urban farm, led by Professor Alex Pacheco and first year students María José Rojas (’19, Costa Rica) and Erasmus Aduteye (’19, Ghana), who explained about their work in hydroponics, germination, and more.
Later on in the morning, Cauffman treated a packed auditorium to a detailed account of her experiences growing up in an unstable family, studying in high school, and the profound positive changes she underwent when her stepfather came into her life. She also spoke about being forced to study three years for a career she did not want to pursue simply because she was a woman.
Finally she spoke to us about her arrival to the United States, her work at a company contracted by NASA to perform various jobs and how, after years of applying, she achieved her dream of entering NASA.
Cauffman’s extensive career includes working as assistant director of the Geostational Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R), working with meteorological satellites to detect hurricanes, and participating in the first mission to service the Hubble telescope. In 2010, she joined the MAVEN project, where she participated in conducting a probe that was sent to Mars to study its atmosphere. In early 2016, she was promoted to her current position, assistant director of the Earth Science Division of NASA.
Motivation, self-improvement, pursuing dreams, and perseverance were the key messages that Cauffman wanted to highlight to EARTH students. “Do not accept ‘no’ as an answer. Keep trying, and always keep your greatest dream in the forefront of your mind, no matter how crazy it seems.” Watch the video of the speech here (in Spanish).
At the end of her visit, Cauffman and her family attended an exhibition in which select students presented their entrepreneurial and community development projects. Among the presenters were Emilio Suárez (’17, Costa Rica), winner of the Innovation and Sustainability Fair (FIS 2016), who spoke about his work with Fungiplas, and Andrés Jinez (’16, Ecuador) who spoke about his research on using thermal power as a tool for weed control in agricultural production systems. Andrés commented, “I found Mrs. Cauffman’s visit very motivating. She showed that in life you have to set goals and fight for them.”
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