RUM graduate receives double recognition from NASA
By John McPhaul
Engineer Javier Ocasio Pérez, who graduated from the Department of Computer Engineering at the Mayagüez Campus (RUM) of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), received double recognition by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the space agency said last week.
The alumnus won the Robert H. Goddard Award for Exceptional Leadership for the Successful Launch of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Mission (LCRD), and also the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Medal for his work in recruitment and entrepreneurship development with Hispanics and minorities.
“I cannot express how happy and honored I feel to receive these awards. Both are very special to me, because they recognize my work as a leader,” said the native of Camuy, who serves as integration manager and in LCRD Mission Testing. “It fills my heart to see that all the sleepless nights, the long days, the challenges faced and resolved are profoundly valued and recognized by NASA. It has been a real privilege to lead a great multidisciplinary team, solving complex challenges as you integrate and prepare to launch a mission to space. After years of hard work and dedication, when finally the mission is launched and everything works, you know that the effort and sacrifice of the team were worth the effort.”
Ocasio Pérez was in charge of integration and testing (I&T) of the LCRD and led a large multidisciplinary team of engineers, scientists and technologists in the construction, integration and testing of the successful LCRD mission culminating in the successful launch of the mission into space on Dec. 7, 2021.
In addition to the technical work, Ocasio Pérez contributed for many years to the development of a diverse and inclusive workforce at NASA. As chair of the Hispanic Advisory Committee for Employees (HACE), he served as a speaker at schools, universities, job fairs and conferences, and also as a mentor to several boarding school employees and students.
He showed a sustained level of exceptional leadership and made significant achievements in support of NASA’s fundamental values.
“I hope this recognition will inspire and encourage children and young people who may doubt whether they can have a positive impact in areas such as science, technology and the aerospace industry,” Ocasio Pérez said. “I always dreamed of being where I am, but I saw it as a very difficult goal to achieve. Even so, I worked very hard, I threw myself into the challenges and I reached these wonderful achievements that today I receive.”
A proud disciple of doctors Nayda Santiago, José Fernando Vega Riveros and Pedro Rivera, Ocasio Pérez said that his beginnings at NASA were during a summer experience of 2007, when he worked creating software for a specialized thermal oven for a flight team. In 2008, he became a federal employee, and has worked at NASA for 15 years.