MARGARITA CINTRON, Ph.D.
[Formerly 2004] NASA Space Medicine
Dr. Nitza Margarita Cintron,
chief of NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) Space Medicine
and Health Care Systems Office, is a long way from her native
Puerto Rico. Her plan to stay at NASA for only two years resulted
in a 26-year career.
"NASA has provided me the
opportunity to grow," Cintron said. "And of course
I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe in what we do. I have
space medicine and science in my soul."
Cintron was inducted into the
Hispanic Engineers National Achievement Awards Conference's
(HENAAC) Hall of Fame on Oct. 7, 2004 during its 16th Annual
Conference. The Hall of Fame was established in 1998 to recognize
the contributions of Hispanics in science, engineering and
technology. With Cintron, its membership numbers 25.
"It's HENAAC's purpose
to work towards involving Hispanic school kids in science,
math and engineering, and make it real to them, to show them
that it's not such a faraway goal," Cintron said. "Being
involved in HENAAC is one way ofbeing able to give back, and
I think that's very valuable."
Cintron came to NASA after reading
a recruitment announcement for the first Mission Specialist
positions in the Astronaut Corps. She was in the last phases
of completing her Ph.D. and was excited about the possibility
of scientists in space. Although she was one of the finalists,
due to her eyesight, she was not selected for the corps.
However, she was offered a position
as a NASA scientist. That was in 1978. Since then, she has
held increasingly responsible positions at JSC. She was originator
of the center's biochemical laboratory in 1979. She served
years as project scientist for the Spacelab 2 mission, launched
aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in July 1985.
Cintron served as chief of the
Biomedical Operations and Research Branch in the Medical Science
Division and later held responsibility as director for managing
the Life Sciences Research Laboratories in support of medical
operations. She assumed her present position earlier this
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico,
Cintron holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology
from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore and an M.D. degree
from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston,
Although born in Puerto Rico,
as a small child, Cintron traveled with her military father
and family throughout Europe. The family returned to Puerto
Rico when she was in elementary school. She attended high
school in Santurce,
Puerto Rico, and college at the University of Puerto Rico,
Rio Peidras. Throughout her young life, she was fascinated
by the sciences, especially absorbed by biology, chemistry,
astronomy and space.
"I always dreamed of being
a scientist. Space was high in my readings, but it didn't
become a reality until I was in college and then graduate
school, when I read the announcement recruiting scientists
to the Astronaut Corps,"
Cintron has published scores
of papers and holds numerous awards. Among them is the JSC
Director's Commendation and Innovation Award, the center's
highest award for civil servants.
Cintron's advice to young people
is, "In everything you do, always do you very best, be
your very best. Everyone has skills and talents, and if you
do your very best with them, you will always be a winner."