STEM Professional of the week

Alma Stephanie Tapia      
NASA Johnson Space Center

As a little girl, Alma Stephanie Tapia imagined that she would one day be a Scientist.  She took every opportunity to participate in science fairs throughout elementary and middle school,  and  took pride in her rock collection. By high school, she was aggressively competing in science competitions and taking a variety of Advanced Placement courses in science and math – all in preparation for what she knew would be a career in the sciences. 

Alma Stephanie grew up in El Paso, Texas , born to immigrant parents from Argentina and Colombia.  Although she struggled to dominate the English language, she was confident in the areas of math and science, which were languages she could fully understand. That deep interest in the sciences, combined with resilience, hard work and insurmountable support from her teachers and family, eventually led to a full academic scholarship to the University of Texas at El Paso. 

Alma Stephanie pursued an undergraduate degree in metallurgical and materials engineering, graduating with the Top Ten Senior Honor in 2003.  Although the first in her family to graduate from college,  Alma Stephanie  was not done with her education  as she had her eyes set on a master’s degree.   In 2005, with a full National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, she graduated from the University of Florida with her master's degree in materials science and engineering.

Today, Alma Stephanie is living her dream, now in her 9th year with NASA Johnson Space Center working as a Materials Engineer. In this role, she supports the International Space Station and is the Material and Processes lead for Extravehicular Activity and Space Suit System hardware.  In this role, she provides technical expertise and oversight in the areas of material design, processes, metallurgy, and failure analysis.  Through her understanding of material design and failure modes , she aids in the development and safe operation of vehicles that allow NASA to successfully expand human knowledge of the atmosphere and space.   As a Materials Engineer, she advances and sustains knowledge and skills that are vital to NASA’s expertise in aeronautic and space sciences and technology.

Alma Stephanie’s scope of activities extend well beyond her technical assignments. She is her division’s representative to the JSC Engineering Academy which encourages employee development and is also the committee co-lead for the JSC Hispanic Employee Resource Group. Alma Stephanie was chosen to participate in the competitive agency-wide NASA Foundations of Influence, Relationships, Success, and Team Work (FIRST) Development Program, being one of the few young engineers selected for this particular program.

Motivated as ever, Alma Stephanie continues to stay active in educational and community outreach, especially in promoting STEM as a wonderful career choice for young women. She has supported  the National Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Conference as part of a "Woman in Government" Panel Session and has participated in video series such as Career Girls and the engineering segment of the Aspire2Inspire series. Alma Stephanie has also participated in ‘Latina Day’ at the Hispanic Engineering Science and Technology (HESTEC) conference promoting STEM to thousands of educators, students and parents.   Great Minds in STEM is proud to feature Alma Stephanie as a Professional Role Model of the Week. 

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