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Yael Natalia Méndez Chaparro

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Rising Star

Fundación Cydonia
I studied Microbiology at the Universidad de los Andes, and my interest in knowing the environment in which microorganisms can survive led me to study a Master's Degree in Sciences-Geology at the National University of Colombia, which I am currently finishing. I am a researcher of the Group of Technological Characterization of Minerals at the National University of Colombia. My professional focus is related to the study of extremophile microorganisms, the identification and characterization of minerals, and their applications in astrobiology and geobiology. I am passionate about space exploration, in particular, manned space travel, and for this reason, I have had the opportunity to participate in 3 Mars analog missions:
Mars Desert Research Station: Crew Scientist 2019 and Commander 2022.
Simulated Space Exploration Analog Habitat in Colombia: Executive Officer 2022.

I have had the opportunity to be a university professor at the National University of Colombia, a teacher of continuing education courses at the Universidad de los Andes, and a volunteer mentor for the Chicas STEAM program in Maloka and of the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications of Colombia.

I am currently involved in the Colombian space sector as the scientific director of the Cydonia Foundation, founding member of the National Space Society Colombia, representative of the Latin American chapter of The Mars Society in Colombia, member of the Space Generation Advisory Council and member of the Colombian team of the Moon Village Association.
About the industry and my career
I work in the STEAM field because I believe that Colombia, being an emerging country, has all the potential to develop high-level projects that can be competitive in the global market. I am convinced that talent exists in Colombian and Latin American women and men and I work so that the economic, gender, and cultural gaps are increasingly minimized. One of my greatest satisfactions is being able to transmit my knowledge to all those who have been making their way in science and in particular in space sciences.
About a Women that Build values
A Woman that builds must be a leading woman who works hand in hand with her team to achieve joint goals. Full of courage and passion for her work, she must inspire perseverance, discipline, love, and empathy. She must have a social conscience that seeks with her projects to positively impact different populations. She must be a strong person with a good character capable of resolving conflicts to generate bonds of cooperation.
About my future
Within 5 years I hope to be leading the space projects that are developed in Colombia. Position the Cydonia Foundation as a Colombian benchmark in the aerospace sector. Take the HAdEES-C project to its next phases, developing a prototype of the standardized Simulated Space Exploration Analog Habitat that can accurately and cheaply replicate a human settlement on the Moon or Mars. The way I have come to inspire more young women to continue with a STEAM career is through talks to disseminate the role of women in these disciplines, voluntary mentoring where I talk about the challenges, difficulties, and achievements of being a Latin American woman involved in the space sector in an emerging country where we do not have a government space agency but still demonstrating with constant and disciplined work that our country can also do research and have a voice on these issues at a global level. Approaching different institutions in order to promote and bring space sciences and giving access to the community in general and particularly populations that do not have access to information and/or are in vulnerable conditions.