Press Release

NASA Engineer Serves as an Inspiration

By SpaceRef Editor
March 31, 2004
Filed under , ,

She may not look like a typical NASA engineer, but behind the soft
smile and calm voice is an educated, intelligent woman with power and

“In looking back, I don’t see that there was one great decision that
led me to who I am today. There were many smaller decisions,” recalls
Dr. Tina Panontin.

Panontin is the chief engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center,
Moffett Field, Calif. She leads a team of researchers working on
space shuttle return-to-flight activities that will help NASA
implement the Vision for Space Exploration.

Having served NASA for more than 20 years, Panontin is still
enthusiastic about her career. She continuously seeks new challenges,
while pursuing an ambitious goal of helping NASA safely return the
space shuttle to flight. “Accepting risks helped me grow and become
confident. With the increasing pace of change, it is vital to commit
to learning,” Panontin said.

Panontin’s work has helped solve numerous complex and
mission-critical problems through analyses to identify the root cause
of the problem and development of solutions. In 2002, the American
Society of Mechanical Engineering honored Panontin. Of the 2,400
recognized, she was one of only 23 women.

Panontin completed her undergraduate work in mechanical engineering
at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif. She received a
master’s degree in the mechanics of materials from Stanford
University. She continued her education by getting a doctoral degree
from Stanford in mechanical engineering with a minor in materials

“The support of family, who promoted the value of education, the
access to mentors and teachers, whose perspectives helped broaden my
outlook and aptitudes in math, science and problem-solving, allowed
my pursuit of a technical career and the opportunity to work on
interesting problems with talented people in pursuit of an important
mission,” she said.

With her own children, Panontin strives to promote a sense of
discovery, knowledge and balance. “It’s important to find your
aspirations, likes and dislikes and understand your personal skills.
A combination of technical studies with the humanities will become a
constant resource in whatever you choose to do,” she concluded.

Media organizations interested in interviewing Panontin should
contact Victoria Steiner, at: 650/604-0176/9000 or via e-mail at:

For information about NASA on the Internet, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.