Meet Bernie Luna: Deputy project manager for HS3
Bernadette "Bernie" Luna came to the Bay Area because of Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif. but she stayed because of NASA.
After achieving a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in bioengineering, Luna looked to the west for her future. Wanting a break from academics, she began a lab job at Stanford University helping graduate students complete their work. After only a year in that position, Luna decided that it was prudent for her to get a graduate degree. So, she applied to Stanford and was accepted.
"I loved my time at Stanford. I even returned again. I ended up in classes with people much like myself who enjoy math and engineering," said Luna. "That's why I like working for NASA. Everybody is intelligent. Knowledge is valued. Critical thinking is part of the job – and the work is so unique."
While at NASA Ames, Luna initially conducted research on space suits and life support – testing advanced, 'hard' space suits in the lab and underwater; and keeping the air breathable in the suit and in space cabins, primarily by removing carbon dioxide and water vapor.
The research included underwater biomechanical experiments to evaluate the energy expended while working in reduced gravity; and grew to include thermal analysis since the astronauts generate heat inside the space suit and need to be cooled. Later, her work was extended to include experiments with multiple sclerosis patients because their symptoms are relieved with cooling. She worked extensively in a chemical lab and became familiar with techniques and chemical methods for scrubbing contaminants from air and processing carbon dioxide to recover the oxygen.
The parallels between astronauts exhaling CO2 in a space cabin and the rising levels in Earth's atmosphere made Luna and her colleagues pay close attention to the discussions about climate change. When the Earth Science Project Office (ESPO) was looking for a project manager, it was a perfect fit. Luna transitioned to the ESPO in 2011. Luna currently works as the deputy project manager for the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission.
All of the knowledge gathered over those decades of engineering work is proving useful. Her experience with instrumentation in the lab gives her some familiarity with atmospheric measurements and science research. "This job is complex and requires the ability to juggle many tasks at once," said Luna. She has the engineering and science background and the ability to multi-task that fits the job requirements well, and is very excited about the HS3 project.
"This is a project of global significance. Our planet is changing. With the data from this mission, modelers will improve their modeling techniques. We hope to learn what makes a hurricane intensify, and better predict if it will intensify. That tells people how to respond. That means there is a potential to save human lives by understanding these storms better," said Luna.
Ames Research Center