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NEWS | Sept. 28, 2022

An Astronomical Passion Sparks NSWC Dahlgren Division Scientist to Shoot for the Stars

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

As a native from Salinas, Puerto Rico, a small rural town on the southern coast,  Scientist Nohely Miranda-Colon traveled the distance to make an impact at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD).

Miranda-Colon started her path to NSWCDD with several internships at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and an adoration for astronomy. The Arecibo Observatory (AO) in Puerto Rico played a large role in shaping her into the astronomy buff she is today. AO was the largest radio telescope in the world at the time and was built to assist in the development of ballistic missile defenses.

“The Arecibo Observatory has inspired many generations of Puerto Rican students to pursue STEM careers, including myself,” said Miranda-Colon. “We had access to learn from this radio telescope because it was right in our backyard.”

Miranda-Colon studied at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UPRM). While in college, she interned at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Miranda-Colon had the opportunity to use her expertise in programming to recalibrate nine years of data taken by the Burst and Transient Source Experiment instrument onboard NASA’s Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory to find variations in the Crab Nebula’s emission within specified energy bands.

Miranda-Colon concluded her time at UPRM where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s in physics. She also became one of the first female professors to teach there in years. In this role, she developed leadership skills and methods that has helped her throughout her career.

The day-to-day programming and her physics background pivoted to a niche for coding when she joined the NSWCDD team in 2020. “Coming from a physics background and switching to focusing on coding and software engineering is an exciting challenge,” said Miranda-Colon.

Miranda-Colon is instrumental with software development and has contributed to the team in the Spectrum Relocation Fund by developing data collection tools to help the engineers visualize the data and automate the data collection process.

With the thought of serving her country in mind, coming to NSWCDD seemed like the perfect match for Miranda-Colon. As a software developer in the Spectrum Relocation Fund, she helps ensure that radio frequency commercial operations do not interfere with Navy or Marine Corps systems and vice versa in bands where commercial operations are incumbent. “The analyses are done in each band and our engineers take steps to mitigate any issues found,” she explained.

Miranda-Colon is hopeful to have a long and fruitful career here at NSWCDD. She highlights the importance of having diverse scientists and engineers who bring a unique background and understanding to the team. “This is what scientists look like – they can look like anyone, “says Miranda-Colon.