STEM Professional of the week

2nd LT Maria Daisy Quintanilla      
U.S. Air Force

Project Engineer, Advanced Extremely
High Frequency Program Office
Space & Missile Systems Center
U.S. Air Force

Most Promising Engineer or Scientist - Undergraduate Degree - Military

At the age of eleven, Second Lieutenant Maria Daisy Quintanilla began on the path that would lead directly to her work with our nation’s most essential protected communication satellite. As a test engineer for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite for the Systems Engineering and Integration Team (SEIT), Protected SATCOM Division, Lt. Quintanilla assists in overseeing integration and testing of the $1.7 billion satellite vehicle that delivers command and control for the President, the Secretary of Defense and our war fighters.

Lt. Quintanilla was raised by a single mother, who immigrated to the U.S. at a young age to support her family in Honduras. Growing up, she understood the sacrifices they had to make and knew she needed to take advantage of all opportunities available to her. Having acquired an interest in engineering while in middle school, when the chance presented itself to attend a high school with a robotics magnet program she didn’t think twice. Her path was greatly defined when she participated in the Civil Air Patrol program in the Miami Springs Optimistic Cadet Squadron. This youth oriented program allowed her to develop leadership skills and gave her an early knowledge of aviation and aerospace.

When it came time to apply for college, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was the perfect fit for Lt. Quintanilla as she would continue on her journey towards an Aerospace Engineering degree. A well rounded college student, she was involved in student organizations, volunteered in her community and participated in track and field. But a scholarship from the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) would provide her opportunities like no other. The AFROTC allowed Lt. Quintanilla to take advantage of programs such as the Cadet Cultural Immersion Program in the Czech Republic and to be a recipient of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association scholarship for students pursuing a STEM education.

Upon graduation, Maria commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the United States Air Force.
Her work with SATCOM at the Los Angeles Air Force Base began in 2011 where she has provided unique and innovative contributions to the organization and to the AEHF satellite program. It was during the factory operational testing of American’s newest military satellite that she identified three key flaws which averted a major four month retest. After the launch of the satellite, she led a 128 person team to successfully execute the first ever 105 day On-Orbit Test of this satellite constellation directly related to mission readiness. Maria also directs $129 million in research and contracts to support satellite and mission control development. Her efforts enable AEHF to support war fighters and provide strategic uses throughout the entire spectrum of conflict.

Lt. Quintanilla is a most promising engineer and positive role model for future STEM professionals. She serves as a member of the LAFB Honor Guard, tutors junior high and high school students in math, science and Spanish and volunteers with the Big Brother Big Sisters program in Los Angeles.

B.S. degree, Aerospace Engineering with a Minor in Mathematics, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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