Ellen Ochoa received a master of science degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1980. When she was selected by NASA in 1990, Ochoa became the world’s first Hispanic female astronaut and the first to go to space two years later. She served on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery and would go on to fly in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Prior to her astronaut career, she was a research engineer and inventor, with three patents for optical systems. Dr. Ochoa investigated optical systems for performing information processing. Simply put, her work involved helping computers to “see.” One of the patented inventions is an optical inspection system, another is an optical object recognition method, and a third is a tool for “noise removal” in images.
Ochoa is also the first Hispanic (and second female) to be named director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.