STEM Professional of the week

Guillermo Gonzalez      
NASA Langley Research Center

Guillermo Gonzalez was born and raised in Puerto Rico, one of six children, humbly raised by their hardworking parents in a low-income community of Ponce. From an early age, he developed an interest and passion for math and science. He was 11 years old when he watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon on his black and white TV. It was then that he saw the NASA logo for the first time. He asked his father what NASA meant, but his father did not know. He told Guillermo to ask his cousin (who was studying engineering at the time). His cousin explained to him the meaning of NASA and the kind of work they did. To his cousin’s explanation, Guillermo replied, “someday I will work for them, they make awesome things.”

Guillermo saw the NASA logo for the second time in the hallways of the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez where he was studying for his bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering. The university announced NASA’s visit on campus to interview the graduating class as well as potential internship students. Guillermo went to the interviews and applied for an internship at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. To his disappointment, NASA Goddard’s positions were filled very quickly. However, when the opportunity to become an intern at NASA Langley was presented to him, he would jump at the chance.

10 years after watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, Guillermo Gonzalez’s dream of working at NASA came true when he joined the NASA Langley Research Center as an engineer coop student. His stellar 37-year career has afforded him the opportunity to work on projects in both the Aeronautics and the space side of NASA. On the Space side of NASA, assignments include the Halogen Occultation Experiment, Solar Sails In-Space Propulsion, and the Stratospheric Aerosol Gas Experiment, or SAGE III, which is currently at the Kennedy Space Center awaiting launch to the International Space Station. On the aeronautics side, he has made important contributions to unmanned airplane programs like the X-29A, the X-31 and the NAVY F/A-18E/F.

Currently, he’s the Avionics lead for the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle Launch Abort System, a critical system that quickly and safely removes human crews from a rocket that unexpectedly suffers an in-flight malfunction. The Launch Abort System was developed by NASA but will be used on all future missions carrying human crews – be they commercial or government run missions. His work has also had major influences in the design of integrated vehicle health monitoring systems. These systems alert astronauts of possible problems within the vehicle before they become problems that affect the welfare of the crew.

Guillermo never forgot his humble beginnings and makes sure he promotes opportunities at NASA while inspiring and mentoring the next generation of STEM talent. He was instrumental in supporting curriculum development of the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars program, a competitive program that allows high school junior to apply to take an online course developed by NASA JSC and attend a residential, seven-day immersive Summer Academy at NASA Langley. He is also involved with NASA Hispanic Advisory Group and the SHPE, Southeast Virginia Professional Chapter where he is a key leader in outreach and mentoring activities.

His dedication and work ethic has led him to be a recipient of numerous awards including the 2011 NASA Exceptional Service Medal. Great Minds in STEM proudly recognized Guillermo’s efforts in October 2016 with a HENAAC Luminary Award.

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