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Vanessa Aponte

Birthplace: Puerto Rico

Education: B.S. and M.S. in chemical engineering, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez; Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Where she works: Vanessa works at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Denver, Colorado.

First engineering project: Built a terrarium in the 5th grade

Co-ops and internships: She had several, including a co-op at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and an internship at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in California.

The value of internships: “My first internship gave me confidence; it allowed me to believe that I could get through a project that I initially knew nothing about. I was able to use the skills I had developed in my classes and put them to work in something that was actually useful and palpable. And then by the second summer internship, I was pretty much confident that I could do anything I wanted.”