Josephine Santiago-Bond grew up with a family of doctors and scientists, but never really saw herself going into the same field. But now, she is the head of the Advanced Engineering Development Branch at NASA.
Growing up in the Philippines, astronomy was never a huge priority for her. It was an unlikely ambition given that we don’t even have our own space program. And despite having two parents and two sisters all as doctors, science generally wasn’t a strong interest for her.
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Still, she completed her secondary education at Philippine Science High School where an upperclassman had her consider engineering for college. She then took up Electronics and Communications Engineering at the University of the Philippines. Afterward, she pursued a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from South Dakota State University.
Throughout her education, she admits that even she had difficulty with her math courses. She admits that “I had to crawl my way through some of the courses, but I wasn’t going to give up because of a few bad grades.”
This perseverance paid off when her graduate adviser gave her the opportunity to work at the John F. Kennedy Space Center (K.S.C.). A summer job turned into a graduate cooperative internship, which she continued until her graduation. She was then offered a full-time position there.
Photo courtesy of Spot.ph
Even this path was unexpected for her, however, as she “had zero knowledge about space shuttles, and did not even know that there was an International Space Station orbiting above [them].”
What’s great about her story is that her uncertainty is something that resounds with all of us. Her success comes from her skill and hard work, but not necessarily a tedious 10-step plan. It’s grounding to realize that we don’t need to have our lives all mapped out in order to do something remarkable with it.
Becoming an astronaut and one day seeing the stars is one of those big fantasies that every kid has — except for Josephine. But she landed closer than most of us ever will. It just goes to show that you can deviate from a path (or not have one at all) and still find happiness at the end of it.
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