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NASA Scientist and Former Patersonian Encourages 
PCCC Students to Reach for the Stars

NASA Scientist and Former Patersonian Encourages
PCCC Students to Reach for the Stars:

“Women in STEM” Lecture Series 2016

NASA scientist Jackelynne Silva made a successful landing at the Main Campus theater this spring with a program full of both information and inspiration for students aspiring to a career in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Jackelynne speaks with a reporter from FIOS 1 TV News

Jackelynne speaks with a reporter from FIOS 1 TV News
about her work at NASA

“Go for higher education,” was the main message Silva said she intended to convey. “That’s one of the primary elements to get a job and pursue your dreams.”

The April 29 program titled “How Curiosity Got Me Into NASA” was one of a series titled “Women in STEM” sponsored by PCCC’s STEM department. Among the students, faculty, and guests in the audience were teachers and students from area high schools that partner with PCCC in STEM education. The event was also covered by FIOS TV News.

“You are fortunate,” Silva told the students in attendance. “When I was in school, STEM programs didn’t exist.”

The Eastside High School graduate now holds a dream job as an engineer in the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she works in Mission Planning Operations. Previously, she was a mechanical engineer in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on the Mars Science Laboratory Mission. .

During the presentation, Silva showed slides and video clips of NASA projects, focusing mainly on Curiosity, the robotic vehicle rover that touched down on Mars in 2012 on a still-continuing mission to explore the geography and atmosphere of the planet. Silva was part of the group that provided verification ground tests for the mission. She held the audience spellbound with a slideshow of images of Mars provided by Curiosity.

Though her job is exciting and prestigious, the NASA engineer told students that getting to this point in her life took a lot of hard work and continues to be demanding. “It’s not easy,” Silva said. “You have to work very hard.” 

Her personal history resonated with many of the students in the audience. Silva was born and spent her childhood in Peru, moving with her family to Paterson as a teenager. After school, she held a part-time job in a store on Main Street, like so many other local teens.

Students, faculty, and guests packed the PCCC theater for

Students, faculty, and guests packed the PCCC theater for
Jackelynne’s lecture..

But she studied hard and went on to Kean University, then to Rutgers where she earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and one in Spanish Translation. In 2014, Silva earned her first master’s degree, in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.

“With the competition of today, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum you would need,” said the scientist, who also holds certificates from Drexel University and the Lockheed-Martin Space System Company and also studied at the International Space University in Ohio.

She urged students to continue their education and to aim for advanced degrees in their future, “I am still in school,” said Silva, who will this year complete her second master’s degree, in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

In addition to attending school, the engineer also publishes articles in scientific journals, participates in research projects, and continues to give her time advocating for education and opportunities for others. She previously gave a presentation at PCCC in 2012, and took the time this year to visit the STEM lab and meet with students before her presentation. (See photo at top).

Now married with a young son, Silva manages to combine family life with her career and took the time to acknowledge her parents in the audience. “Thank you for being my role models,” she said.

The program was moderated by Dennis Reer, the director of STEM at PCCC, and included a number of citations and proclamations for Silva presented by local officials and dignitaries, including:  NJ senator Nellie Pao; Office of the Mayor of Paterson (Patricia Cabrera, assistant to Mayor Jose Torres); Deputy Council General of Peru: Vitaliano Gallardo; Paterson Councilwoman Maritza Davila; Jazlyn Carvajal, Director of Finance, Latinas in STEM.

Visit Jackelynne Silva’s website

Learn more about STEM @ PCCC

STEM Summer Workshops for High School Students