Dr. Yajaira Sierra-Sastre
Dr. Yajaira Sierra-Sastre is a materials scientist and educator with ten years of research experience in academic, federal, and private institutions. Yajaira received her BS degree in chemistry and teacher’s certification from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. After college, she returned to her hometown Arroyo and taught chemistry at her former high school. At the end of the academic year, Yajaira was awarded a summer research fellowship for teachers at Stanford University. There she discovered her passion for nanotechnology and returned home to work at the NASA Research Center for Advanced Nanoscale Materials at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras, where she investigated materials for space applications. After gaining valuable research experience, Yajaira decided to pursue graduate studies at Cornell University and obtained a PhD in nanomaterials chemistry in 2009. As part of her doctoral thesis, Dr. Sierra-Sastre worked as a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Upon graduation, she joined a nanotechnology start-up company where she developed coating processes for multinational clients in the military, environment, medical diagnostics, and textile sectors.
Yajaira is currently dedicated at developing her own social enterprise, which focuses on providing mentoring and professional development opportunities to students from socially disadvantaged communities in Puerto Rico. She also collaborates in a variety of projects with the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network and the Cornell Nanoscale Facility, including the smallest national anthem ever written ‘La Borinqueña más pequeña’. Her work in nanotechnology, educational outreach, and her aspirations to become the first Puerto Rican female astronaut have been recently featured in televised, radio, and news media. Her interests also include suborbital materials research, nanomaterials for the energy sector and technology commercialization in Latin America and Puerto Rico. In her spare time, Yajaira enjoys Latin dance, theatre, outdoor activities, and international cuisine.