Star Trek Fan to NASA Deputy Chief Technologist! Get To Know This Fascinating Malaysian



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Star Trek Fan to NASA Deputy Chief Technologist! Get To Know This Fascinating Malaysian

2 Weeks ago
By MJC97

Recently, thanks to a Twitter user named Richard Ker who has been sharing several success stories of Malaysians who have changed the world with their talent and knowledge, we have been introduced to so many locals who have done so much while we've just been sitting on our couches watching the latest K-drama on Netflix (don't worry, I am doing that too).

Just a few days ago, we wrote an article on the Malaysians who helped create some of our favourite Pixar animated movies, check out the article here!

Today, we will get to know a Muar-born Star Trek fan who is now NASA's Deputy Chief Technologist, Florence Tan! WOW! WE ARE AMAZED!  

Besides being NASA's Deputy Chief Technologist, she is also the Chair of the Small Spacecraft Coordination Group (SSCG) at NASA Headquarters.

Florence was born in a small fishing town that at the time had around 3000 people in Muar, Johor. Growing up, Florence had a knack for science and mathematics. Her parents were teachers and she too had always wanted to be a teacher. But, watching reruns of Star Trek, inspired her to become an aerospace or electrical engineer.

So, with that dream in hand, she finished her secondary education at the MARA Junior Science College in Kuantan and went to Western Michigan University and, after one year, transferred to the University of Maryland to earn her Bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering. She also has a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master's in Business Administration from John Hopkins University.  

Her journey at NASA began in 1985 when she was hired as an intern at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre. After graduating in 1986, she continued working at Goddard for 32 years where she designed and built, I&T, and operational roles in seven mass spectrometers to destinations including Mars, Saturn, Titan, and the Moon.

She was involved in the Cassini Orbiter that orbited the Saturnian system where she built and designed hardware on the Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS).  

Besides that, she also worked on the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) on the Huygens Probe, which landed on Titan.  

Florence was also the Electrical Lead Engineer for the Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM), an instrument on Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover, now operating on Mars.  

She was the electrical lead on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft's Neutral Gas Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) instrument. It is now orbiting Mars!  

That's just some of the work she did for NASA! 

In an in-house interview, Florence was asked about her parents and this is what she said:

"My parents had a really wonderful plan, something very commonplace in our culture. They understood that education was the way to a better life for everyone. Ever since I was little, my parents said that they had enough money to pay to educate two of their children. Their plan was that the first two children, my sister and I, would go to school, graduate and then get jobs to help pay for my two younger brothers to also go to school.

When I graduated from college, my friends got cars. I pooled my funds with those of my family so that my two brothers could go to college.

All of us have done well, thanks to our parents."  

She added, "I am who I am because of my parents, their guidance and their sacrifices."

Florence is now married with two daughters and she lives in Maryland, USA.She is an inspiration to all young Malaysians who are aspiring aerospace engineers. 

Interested to know Florence Tan a little more, watch her tell her story in this video:

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Just another human, trying to survive.



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