Why She’s Interesting: Perez-Davis is a pioneer. Named the director of NASA Glenn Research Center last January, she oversees as many as 3,300 employees between Cleveland’s Lewis Field station and Plum Brook Station in Sandusky. Since taking on the position, she has been involved in nearly every step of the Artemis program, which will send the first woman to the moon in 2024.
Encyclopedic Inspiration: Perez-Davis grew up in Adjuntas, a small mountainside coffee-farming municipality in Puerto Rico. Around the age of 13, Perez-Davis looked up “engineer” in an encyclopedia and the definition captivated her. “At that point in time, engineering was not seen as a woman’s job, but that’s what I really wanted.”
Mother Superior: In 1982, Perez-Davis’ research on energy caught NASA’s attention while she was at a job fair. Perez-Davis names her mother as a major source of support when it came to her dreams. “She said she couldn’t leave us with anything, because she didn’t have much, but she could leave us with an education.”
High Ranks: During her 30-plus year climb at NASA, she’s researched nickel-hydrogen batteries and dust accumulation on planetary surfaces, eventually moving into various management positions. All that experience has helped in her new gig. “I really enjoy having a broader view of all the technical contributions across the center and how it comes together. I would have never dreamed to be in the position that I’m in right now.”
Space Travel: Perez-Davis’ vision is set on the future, particularly one in which the moon will see its first woman in 2024. Currently, NASA Glenn is developing a 9,650-pound adapter which connects the Orion spacecraft to its launch system and carries large equipment for the mission. Perez-Davis calls the Artemis program a huge motivator. “People will be writing books about what we’re doing today.”
Interesting Fact: Every other year, Perez-Davis travels somewhere new with her sons. So far, they’ve been to Spain, Scotland, Ireland and Italy.