Muar-Born Engineer Appointed Deputy Chief Technologist At NASA's Space Flight Center

Hailing from a small fishing village, Tan said she was inspired to become an aerospace engineer by watching Star Trek.

Cover image via NASA

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The Sultan of Johor has recently congratulated a Malaysian for her international success at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) headquarters in the United States

In a Facebook post, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar said he is proud of Muar-born Florence Tan for her latest appointment as the deputy chief technologist in the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

"It is a wonderful achievement, especially because of the position she holds at a globally important and prestigious organisation," said His Majesty.

"It will also serve as an inspiration to other Johoreans pursuing their various careers, dreams and talents."

Tan's achievements at the internationally famous space agency recently caught the attention of Malaysians after her story was shared on Twitter by Richard Ker, the chief marketing officer of Aerodyne Malaysia, who often shares success stories of Malaysians in tech.

Florence Tan at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Image via NASA

Tan, a mother-of-two, has actually already worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for over 32 years

According to her work profile, she is also chair of the headquarter's Small Spacecraft Coordination Group.

She leads a group that coordinates and develops NASA's strategy and vision for small spacecrafts in exploration missions; provides advice to other directorates, and also assesses technology needs for NASA's science projects.

Before the managerial roles, Tan, an electrical engineer by training, designed, built, and wrote software for mass spectrometers at Goddard's laboratories to be used on NASA space flight operations, including on the Moon, Mars, Saturn, and Titan (a moon of Saturn).

She has received numerous awards for her work, including the NASA Medal for Exceptional Achievement, the Robert Goddard Exceptional Achievement for Outreach Award, the Goddard Division Excellence Award, and multiple other NASA Group Achievement Awards.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Image via NASA

Hailing from a small fishing village in Muar, Tan said she had always wanted to become a teacher like her parents

However, she was later inspired by watching reruns of Star Trek to become an aerospace or electrical engineer.

She eventually left Malaysia at the age of 18 after finishing her secondary education at the MARA Junior Science College in Kuantan.

Tan then graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Maryland. She also holds a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master's in Business Administration from John Hopkins University.

Tan designed and wrote software for mass spectrometers flown on the Cassini-Huygens orbiter (pictured), launched in 1997 to Saturn.

Image via NASA

Tan, who is now a US citizen and lives with her husband and two daughters in Maryland, will still always pay tribute to her parents for where she is today

She said her parents saved money in every way they could when she was young because they understood that education was the way to a better life for everyone.

"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 college," she told NASA in an in-house interview.

"When I graduated, 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."

Tan has made it a personal goal to inspire more students to go into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and actively engages in outreach activities to promote NASA advancements to the public.

Watch Tan tell her story titled "From Malaysia To Mars" here:

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