2003 Award Reception : Marla Perez-Davis
Dr. Marla Perez-Davis
Winner of the 2003 Women in Aerospace Awareness Award
An excerpt from the nomination form:
Nomination Letter for Dr. Marla Perez-Davis
I am pleased to nominate Dr. Marla Perez-Davis for the Aerospace Awareness Award. I have known Dr. Perez-Davis for over 11 years, while I was working in the Aeronautics Directorate in gas turbine combustion research, and for over three years as her supervisor in the Power and On Board Propulsion Technology Division. She is also an outstanding supervisor and mentor for her branch as Chief of the Electrochemistry Branch in my Division, demonstrating leadership in developing a diverse workforce at the Glenn Research Center through frequent recruiting visits to the University of Puerto Rico where she successfully attracted excellent students and faculty members to work at NASA. Dr. Perez-Davis is an excellent choice to receive this award because of her extraordinary achievements in leading and managing both aeronautics and space research programs at NASA and for her excellence in personnel management as the Chief of the Electrochemistry Branch in the Power and On Board Propulsion Technology Division in the Research and Technology Directorate. She has also been a leader in pioneering the new areas of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanotechnology as applied to aerospace power systems; and for her efforts in developing a diverse research workforce at the Glenn Research Center. Most recently Dr. Perez-Davis served a special assignment at NASA HQ in the Educator Astronaut Program, helping to initiate the new program which is looking for Educator Astronauts to help lead the Agency in the development of new ways to connect space exploration with the classroom and to inspire the next generation of explorers.
Throughout her career, Dr. Perez-Davis clearly has demonstrated the characteristics required for the Aerospace Awareness Award. Dr. Perez-Davis was attracted to a research career at NASA from her home in Puerto Rico because of "its innovative spirit and vision to explore new frontiers." She has helped the Agency to maintain this spirit with through her exceptional technical and leadership skills. Dr. Perez-Davis has been a very active leader in diversity, education and outreach for NASA, including being selected as a NASA Administrators Fellow, where she taught at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez for one year and initiated a major personnel exchange program between the Universities of Puerto Rico and all the NASA Centers. She initiated workshops in science and mathematics for K-12 teachers, impacting more than 1200 students (K-12) in Puerto Rico in an eight-month timeframe. She recommended improvements to the Chemical Engineering Curriculum at UPRM to ensure continuous future collaborative initiatives between NASA and UPRM, for example, the development and implementation of a Biotechnology Certificate option to be offered by the Chemical Engineering Department. She has been a judge in several international Science Fairs, such as the 1999 and 2001 Afro-Academic Cultural and Technological Scientific Olympics (ACT -SO) and the 2003 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Competitions. This activity was sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and NASA Education Division. Her commitment to outreach activities is demonstrated by attendance and participation in Career Fairs including: La Raza Conference (1999), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) 1997 National Technical and Career Conference. Cuyahoga Community College (CCC) Multicultural Career Fairs (6 appearances), the 1993 Mathematical Career Fair at Cleveland State University, the statewide 1994 Hispanic Engineering and Architecture Students Leadership (HEAL) Conference and others. She is a very active role model as demonstrated by her numerous presentations to students at local schools. She has frequently been involved in the mentors program at NASA Glenn, where she has mentored seven students of diverse backgrounds and received a commendation by the Center Director for her contribution as a member of the NASA Lewis Mentor Team (1994). She served as the Science, Engineering, and Math Initiatives Committee Chairperson for the Society of Professional Engineers (SHPE) at the National level. SHPE's objective is to promote the development of Hispanics to their fullest potential in order to contribute to America's future technological strength. She led the development and distribution of a nation-wide survey to SHPE chapters and the written report regarding outreach activities. In conjunction with the NASA Equal Opportunity Programs Office, Dr. Perez-Davis coordinated several activities sponsored by the Hispanic Advisory Council (HAC). This included a statewide 1994 Hispanic Engineering and Architecture Students Leadership Conference (HEAL), the Hispanic Heritage Month program celebrated in September 1993, Minority Career Fairs at Cuyahoga Community College (CCC), HAC Issues and Answers presentations for all of NASA Glenn, Hispanic Astronaut Visit (1994), and others. The Hispanic Heritage Month program as well as the HAC Issues and Answers received a very positive response by the Center personnel and management. As the Chairperson of the Hispanic Advisory Council (1993- 1994) at the NASA Lewis Research Center, she presented issues, concerns and new initiatives to all the NASA Center Directors and Headquarters personnel, including the Director of Diversity Policy and Strategic Planning Division for all of NASA.
In her 19-year career, Dr. Perez-Davis has demonstrated her abilities in leadership and management through her contributions to NASA. As Chief of the Electrochemistry Branch, Dr. Perez-Davis is the leader of a team of researchers engaged in cutting edge research and development of advanced batteries and fuel cells for aerospace applications. Benefits of these developments include increasing the energy storage performance of aircraft, spacecraft, planetary and terrestrial power systems.
As a NASA Administrator's Fellow, Dr. Perez-Davis participated in multiple briefings, presentations, workshops and seminars sponsored by NASA Headquarters, NASA Centers, National Academies of Sciences, National Research Council, Board of Engineering Education and others. The participation in these activities provided an overview and understanding of NASA emerging science and technologies, issues and challenges in science and engineering education, and NASA's roles and responsibilities in technology research and development.
Dr. Perez-Davis has served as the Technology Manager in the Plans and Programs Office responsible for supporting the formulation of the Centers strategic vision and implementation plan, and evaluation of strategies. She initiated the development of technology roadmaps for the Center with the support of the Research and Technology Directorate. She worked a ten-week assignment with the Office of Aeronautics and Space Transportation at NASA Headquarters working to develop the Next Generation Design Tools Roadmaps and Metrics Charts.
As Assistant to the High Speed Research (HSR) Project Manager in the Aeronautics Directorate, Dr. Perez-Davis proposed to the Project Manager a revised organizational structure, and recommended continuous improvement processes in the Office. She developed and initiated a process for obtaining internal and external feedback to enable team building and to enhance team performance in the HSR Project Office. She received a Special Achievement Award for major contributions towards the organizational development of the HSR Propulsion Project Office.
In the Space Program, she served as Assistant to the Deputy for Planning in the Space Flight Systems Directorate, where she was responsible for supporting the Deputy in planning, directing, coordinating, and reviewing the total quality initiatives. She guided the Directorate staff to develop metrics in the areas of customer satisfaction, programmatic performance, human and physical resources, socio-economic performance, and process improvement.
Dr. Perez-Davis has served as Acting Deputy Chief of the Systems Engineering Office in the Launch Vehicle Project Office (LVPO). In this position, she led the restructuring of the product reviews that precede the launch's activities. She led to completion the continuous improvement activity for the product review process in four month through the data gathering, analyzing, and dealing effectively with all levels of staff and management and at the contractor's organization. She established the LVPO plan for the Total Quality training of the staff.
In 1994, she represented NASA in a study of the leadership skills required for the 21st century workforce in the federal agencies. The study was part of the 1994 Executive Potential Program (EPP). The topic of age diversity was addressed by the team, which was composed of eight individuals from eight different federal agencies.
When NASA Glenn underwent a major reorganization in the mid 90's, Dr. Perez-Davis was selected to be a member of the Structural Alignment Team (SAT) where she actively participated in the analysis of the NASA Glenn Research Center's functions and resources. She led the planning and development of the benchmarking efforts used by the Structural Alignment Team.
In the early 90's, she served as a member of the NASA Space Exploration Initiative Mission Review Panel Red Team (Agency Level), where she wrote the section of the Red Team report to the Administrator regarding surface power technologies for Lunar and Mars missions. She gathered, analyzed, and interpreted input provided by NASA Lewis Research Center and other Field centers (ARC, LaRC, JPL, GSFC, KSC, MSFC, and JSC). The Space Exploration Initiative Mission Review Panel Red Team was responsible for the evaluation, analysis and recommendation of the Agency's plan for the Moon and Mars Initiatives. Dr. Perez-Davis assisted in the development of the Red Team inputs to the NASA Strategic Planning Team.
Some examples of Dr. Perez-Davis' awards over the years include:
l) Superior Accomplishment Award for outstanding leadership in restructuring and managing the Fast Quiet Engine (FQE) element of the Aeronautics Base R&T Program. (2) Team Award for contributions to the Center realignment process. (3) Special Achievement Award for major contributions towards the organizational development of the HSR Propulsion Project Office. (4) Group achievement award for the successful development and implementation of a Power Technology Division subordinate appraisal pilot program. (5) Group achievement award for the creation and successful completion of the Martian Wind Tunnel Evaluation of the effects of dust on anticipated surface power system. (6) Special achievement award for the development and successful completion of compression tests on nickel-hydrogen battery components. (7) Group achievement award for the development of individual pressure vessel nickel-hydrogen cells. (8) Selected as a 1997 NASA Administrator's Fellowship Program Fellow. (9) 2001 Women of Color Technology Award in Government and Defense for Career Achievement in Government. (10) 2001 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award - Santiago Rodriguez Diversity Award. She has been featured in national magazines such as TECHNICA, Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology, US Black Engineer, Women of Color and in newspaper articles from Ashtabula to Cincinnati.
Over her professional career, Dr. Marla Perez-Davis has been an outstanding personal contributor to aerospace research and program management and now is mentoring and leading new teams of researchers. She exemplifies the characteristics of an awardee for technology leadership, and her excellence has been recognized and rewarded on many occasions.