Text Size
Yaireska M. Collado-Vega - Weather Forecaster for Space - Part 1 of 2
January 20, 2015

Part One of Two

[image-69]Name: Yaireska M. Collado-Vega
Title: Physical scientist
Organization: Code 674, Space Weather Laboratory, Heliophysics Science Division, Space and Exploration Directorate

After a long journey, Yaireska M. Collado-Vega achieved her dream of becoming a scientist at Goddard.

What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard? How do you help support Goddard’s mission?

My job has three different parts. Primarily, I am a space weather forecaster and magnetospheric physics researcher. I also do public and education outreach.

How do you predict space weather?

As part of the Space Weather Research Center (SWRC) team within the Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC), we analyze space weather information, including data from NASA missions, and we also use data from available models running at the CCMC. We look at space weather, which are the conditions in space regulated by the sun's activity that can affect the near-Earth environment, and make predictions of different solar events which may affect planets and spacecraft about two to 10 days into the future.

Why is space weather important?

Solar storms, which create space weather, can adversely impact some of the instruments on our NASA missions. Solar storms can also cause satellite communications disruptions, GPS signal loss and power grid failures. When we predict a possible impact from a solar storm, we send this information to the NASA end-users and, depending on the severity, they decide what to do about their missions and how to distribute this information.

What research are you currently conducting in magnetospheric physics?

Magnetospheric physics is the study of the magnetic field of the Earth and other bodies of the solar system.  The magnetic field is our shield from the solar wind, which contains high-energy particles from the sun. I look at different models showing the changes in position of the magnetopause, the last boundary separating the solar wind from the Earth’s inner magnetosphere. The magnetopause changes position constantly, but during a solar storm the change in position may be significant and, if so, satellite communications could be disrupted and geomagnetic storms can develop.

What do you enjoy most about doing education and public outreach?

I enjoy making presentations to school children of different ages. I also really enjoy explaining science both to children and to adults. I like seeing their eyes light up after I’ve told them something neat about science.

I’m from Puerto Rico. I love when kids, especially Hispanic kids, come up to me and say that they now think that becoming a scientist is possible because they see that I am a scientist. I love being a role model for kids.

Where do you do most of your work?

I work at Goddard’s Community Coordinated Modeling Center visual lab. The CCMC is one very large room with about ten monitors, which are always displaying scientific information. Generally, the information is live images of the sun, images from the various models and also data graphs.

The CCMC is an archive of many different models ranging from the sun to the entire heliosphere, the huge magnetic bubble containing our solar system, solar wind and the entire solar magnetic field. We use the data from the various models for scientific research and to forecast space weather as part of the Space Weather Research Center's mission of addressing NASA robotic mission needs. Our lab is impressive and exciting!

How important is teamwork or collaboration with others?

We work with many international partners on both research and space weather forecasting. We share models and collaborate to validate the various models. Science is all about teamwork and how the different teams can complement and help each other. For example in our forecasting team, we have many people that specialize in different subjects and have different backgrounds that work together to get a better understanding of the space environment. That is one of the great things about working at Goddard.

Your path to Goddard was long and difficult. Now that you are here, what do you hope to accomplish?

I want to be the best that I can be as a forecaster and researcher for the CCMC/SWRC.

I also want to be a role model and mentor, especially for Hispanics and other minorities.

In addition, I also want to develop myself as a future NASA leader. I am currently one of the co-chairs of the New and Developing Professionals (NDP) Advisory Committee, which is the advisory committee at Goddard that represents new employees and employees who are at a development phase in their careers. Being part of NDP has provided me with great opportunities and avenues to develop myself both professionally and personally. 

Part Two of Yaireska's interview

Read more Conversations With Goddard

Also read about what our people do Outside Goddard

Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Image Token: 
Yaireska M. Collado-Vega
Yaireska M. Collado-Vega
Image Credit: 
Image Token: 
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: January 27th, 2015
Page Editor: Lynn Jenner