Katya Echazarreta

Electrical Engineer and the First Mexican-born Woman in Space

My roots start in Mexico where I was born. My family moved to the US when I was about 7 years old. Growing up in the US was difficult at first due to the language barrier, but I worked hard and was a fluent English speaker within two years. My mom instilled a strong work ethic in me since childhood and always encouraged me to follow my passions. Space, Math, Astronomy, and Physics have interested me for as long as I can remember and I never lost sight of that growing up.

My educational journey was not a straight shot. I graduated high school and enrolled in a Community College (San Diego City College) to study Electrical Engineering despite various setbacks. After three years I transferred to UCLA where I obtained my B.S. in Electrical Engineering. During my time at UCLA, I got to be an intern at NASA JPL. Eventually, I transitioned to a full-time engineer and worked on 5 NASA missions including Perseverance and Europa Clipper. Currently, I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Throughout my journey in engineering school I was very aware about the lack of women in the field. This was very difficult for me because I did not have many people I could ask for advice regarding several topics such as the implicit biases we face on a daily basis. I’ve been given the opportunity to help guide those girls and women who, like me, are looking for someone with experience in what they are going through. Through honesty about the difficulties and encouragement I hope to be able to help women be better prepared for their experience as a woman in STEM.