Welcome to my Bulletin, From the Nanoworld to Planet Mars. ¡Bienvenidos! I am Dr. Yajaira Sierra Sastre and here I'll share my journey from exploring a world ‘too small to see’ to answering Humanity’s fundamental questions about life in the Cosmos.
Who am I?
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, in a coastal town with luscious green mountains, beautiful beaches, and a clear night sky that lured me to learn all I could about the Universe. I am a teacher-turned scientist, technologist, innovator, and dot-connector. I am also a beginner rock climber, average Salsa dancer (Bachata too!), and a lover of strange foods. I am Boricua, Cornellian (Go Big Red!), Americana. From here and there (de aquí y de allá). Soy hija, esposa y hermana.
‘Como el arroz blanco’ (like white rice is everywhere), I have reinvented myself multiple times over the course of my career. From teaching to research, from nanotechnology startups to freelancing, from making US banknotes more secure to now working on spaceflight missions - my path in science has been a fantastic voyage! I even lived for four months on top of a volcano, in conditions of confinement and isolation, simulating a mission to the red planet.
This almost ‘out-of-this-world’ experience taught me many lessons about resilience, ingenuity, and reinvention that I would like to share with you for empowerment and inspiration. Altogether, my career path has been a process of learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable - of saying yes to opportunities even when I was not sure I could do them at the time.
What am I going to write about?
‘From the Nanoworld to Planet Mars' will be part memoir and part compendium of essays on popular science. Have you ever wondered why music gets stuck in your head? How can we see atoms? Will humans ever live on other planets? These are some of the many questions we will aim to answer. I like intertwining technical concepts with life events to make science topics more relevant and fun. So this is a space for the young and old, the teachers, the students, the abuelitas, the seekers, and the knowledge-obsessed. ALL are welcome!
In addition, I will use this platform to highlight the contributions of women and Hispanic scientists in many fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM). Come here and get inspired by the stories of these role models and game changers. I also envision launching a Spanish podcast with translations to some of the published articles. So even if you aren't a Spanish speaker, I would like to invite you to hear me speak in the language of my soul. :)
I’d like to learn what makes you curious and explore together how interconnected science is. This Bulletin is an experiment for me, as I embark on this new venture to grow as a creative writer. So I hope you follow along with me. I very much look forward to your feedback in the Comments section. Please let me know what interests you and what stories are resonating with you. I will be hosting Q&As and Live events so make sure you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
As a researcher, I am motivated to answer questions about the natural world and apply that knowledge to benefit our lives here on Earth. As an explorer, I am driven to the adventure of reaching far-away and extreme environments, and as an informal science educator, I hope my quest to reach the stars will inspire you to do the same.
And to my Hispanic community and my beautiful people of Puerto Rico, ¡GRACIAS! Gracias por siempre apoyarme en mis sueños y aventuras. Cuento con ustedes. Rieguen la voz. Invita a un amigo o al vecino. ¡Del Caribe pa'l Mundo!
Yajaira (pronounced Ja-hi-da)
Cover Art: Angel Bayron
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