Written by Abigail R. De Hay

Dr. Ellen Ochoa was born May 10, 1958 in Los Angeles, California to Joseph and Rosanne Ochoa. Most of her childhood was spent living in San Diego, California where her parents divorced, and where shebecame Grossmont High School’s Class of ‘75 valedictorian. Having been offered a four-year scholarship toStanford University upon graduation, she decided to attend San Diego State University (SDSU) – to stay inclose proximity to her younger brothers who were still in high school – ultimately pursuing a bachelor’s degreein physics after exploring journalism, writing, and otherwise more liberal arts studies. (Brennan, 2020)

Ochoa then began her graduate studies in electrical engineering at Stanford University where shereceived both her master’s degree and her doctorate’s degree in this field. It was here that she started running in circles with others who had been interested in NASA’s astronaut training program which had just begun recruiting female scientists. (Brennan, 2020) Shortly following her Stanford graduation, Ochoa began researching the “niche” field of imaging technologies at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California sharing three patents during her time there. (Brennan, 2020) Soon after, she had learned she had become oneof the finalists for the astronaut training program. In 1993, Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to travel into space (Britannica, 2020) aboard the Discovery space shuttle, logging 720 hours of space time (Encyclopedia, 2020). She has orbited the planet four times since. (NASA, 2018) From 2013 to 2018, Ochoa served as the eleventh director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center – second female director, and first Hispanic director – which is considered “the nucleus of the nation’s astronaut corps and home to International Space Station mission operations.” (Britannica, 2020; NASA, 2020) Ochoa has also received NASA’s most honorable awards, the Distinguished ​Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award, an awardfor senior executives in the federal government. (NASA, 2018)

Best known for her space endeavors and patents in electrical engineering, Dr. Ellen Ochoa acts as aLatinx role model for all people who dream of space and STEM careers. Her commitment to education and to the pursuit of higher education is an inspiration to those not just in the Latinx community, but to all women in STEM/STEAM and those who want to follow in her footsteps in contributing to scientific knowledge and further research.


Brennan, Carol “Ochoa, Ellen: 1958—: Astronaut.” ​Contemporary Hispanic Biography.​ Encyclopedia.com.​ (August 11, 2020). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ochoa-ellen-1958-astronaut

Editors of Britannica “Ellen Ochoa.” ​Encyclopedia Britannica. ​Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. (May 6. 2020). https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ellen-Ochoa

National Aeronautics and Space Administration “Johnson Space Center.” ​NASA​, www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/fs-2016-10-002-jsc.pdf

National Aeronautics and Space Administration “Ellen Ochoa.” ​NASA​, https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/about/people/orgs/bios/ochoa.html

Unknown “Ellen Ochoa: 1958-: Astronaut – Twice Valedictorian.” ​Twice Valedictorian – Space, Nasa, University, and National – JRank Articles​, biography.jrank.org/pages/3170/Ochoa-Ellen-1958-Astronaut-Twice-Valedictorian.html