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Marta Metelko
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1642)

Victoria Steiner
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
(Phone: 650/604-0176/9000)

March 30, 2004
RELEASE : 04-106
NASA Engineer Serves As Inspiration
Dr. Tina Panontin is the chief engineer at Ames Research Center (ARC), Moffett Field, Calif. Image left: Dr. Tina Panontin is the chief engineer at Ames Research Center. Photo credit: NASA.

She may not look like a typical NASA engineer, but behind the soft smile and calm voice is an educated, intelligent woman with power and influence.

"In looking back, I don't see that there was one great decision that led me to who I am today. There were many smaller decisions," recalls Dr. Tina Panontin.

Panontin is the chief engineer at NASA's Ames Research Center (ARC), Moffett Field, Calif. She leads a team of researchers working on Space Shuttle return-to-flight activities that will help NASA implement the Vision for Space Exploration.

Having served NASA for more than 20 years, Panontin is still enthusiastic about her career. She continuously seeks new challenges, while pursuing an ambitious goal of helping NASA safely return the Space Shuttle to flight. "Accepting risks helped me grow and become confident. With the increasing pace of change, it is vital to commit to learning," Panontin said.

Panontin's work has helped solve numerous complex and mission-critical problems through analyses to identify the root cause of the problem and development of solutions. In 2002, the American Society of Mechanical Engineering honored Panontin. Of the 2400 recognized, she was one of only 23 women.

Panontin completed her undergraduate work in mechanical engineering at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif. She received a master's degree in the mechanics of materials from Stanford University. She continued her education by getting a doctoral degree from Stanford in mechanical engineering with a minor in materials science.

"The support of family, who promoted the value of education, the access to mentors and teachers, whose perspectives helped broaden my outlook and aptitudes in math, science and problem-solving, allowed my pursuit of a technical career and the opportunity to work on interesting problems with talented people in pursuit of an important mission," she said.

With her own children, Panontin strives to promote a sense of discovery, knowledge and balance. "It's important to find your aspirations, likes and dislikes and understand your personal skills. A combination of technical studies with the humanities will become a constant resource in whatever you choose to do," she concluded.

Media organizations interested in interviewing Panontin should contact Victoria Steiner, ARC Office of Public Affairs at: 650/604-0176/9000 or via e-mail at:

For information about NASA on the Internet, visit:


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