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Center Snapshot: Denisse Aranda
Denisse Aranda. Image above: Denisse Aranda started her work at Langley in the Vehicle Analysis Branch as a LARSS student. She is now working as a graduate co-op in the Mechanical Systems Branch. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

Denisse Aranda has spent eight weeks at NASA Langley. That time has flown by. Possibly because she had so much fun designing and optimizing concept vehicles that will carry payloads to low-Earth orbit.

She started her work at Langley in the Vehicle Analysis Branch as a Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars (LARSS). She is now working as a graduate co-op in the Mechanical Systems Branch, working on the Center of Gravity (CG) Offset for Inflatable Re-Entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE 3).

Aranda looks back on a brief, yet continuing experience at Langley. And she also a long list of NASA experiences, and is hopeful for what the future has in store.

Aranda is an alumnus of the Space Academy at Kennedy Space Center, and the Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) at Glenn Research Center. Her work at Glenn on Aerogel, an extremely low-density solid with a notable effectiveness as a thermal insulator, earned her a nomination as a NASA Student Ambassador.

NASA managers and mentors nominate ambassadors from the hundreds of interns and fellows engaged in research and education opportunities across the agency. The initiative further recognizes exceptional students.

As an ambassador, she has several roles appointed by headquarters. She is working to increase NASA students participation in professional conferences, such as the 2011 International Astronautical Congress, which will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, next year. "I will be attending this conference as a delegate from the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) and am planning to present my thesis work at the conference as well," she said.

Even without appointed roles, she leads by example. It's just who she is or more importantly, who she strives to be.

Aranda credits her success to her "engineering degree, the diversity of her experiences and her relentless attitude." She enjoys finding solutions to problems and appreciates the legitimacy of those contributions.

"I will do whatever it takes to get things done to ensure the quality and completion of the task at hand," Aranda said. "It is this attitude that can make a difference in the successful completion of a project."

While completing her master's degree in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech, Aranda is soaking up all that Langley has to offer.

"As a research center, NASA Langley houses some of the most brilliant minds in the agency who are constantly working on innovative projects. Much of NASA’s technical expertise resides here," she said. "The diversity of projects available and the versatility of the knowledge base is something not easily reproduced elsewhere."

She also enjoys the location. "Between all the parks, beaches and cultural events, there is never a dull moment to be experienced," Aranda said. "Virginia offers nature, city life, and everything in between to create an ideal location to maintain a good work-life balance."

Although Aranda is mostly focused on work, she also finds time to play. Her favorite thing to do is to travel and experience as many different places and cultures as she can. "I feel that with every experience and interaction with these different cultures, I get closer to understanding what it really means to be human," she said.

In her travels, she also presents at technical conferences. The interaction gained from those can help her to solve challenges back at the workplace. And when she can’t actually be present at a conference, she reads about it.

Aranda doesn't limit her sights to space. She has always been an admirer of the blue waters of the Carribean. As a certified open water SCUBA diver, her favorite dive spots include the corals of Key West and the shipwrecks of the Bahamas and Virgin Islands.

And then she dives into her lifelong passion - dance. Aranda has competed in more than 38 states for national and international competitions. She has even performed in the Macy’s Day Parade.

She is learning ballroom dance, a new style for her, and will be competing in the Latin Dance division next year. She will complete her Zumba instructor certification this year.

Aranda is constantly putting one foot in front of the other while maintaining her center of gravity, whether she is dancing or working.