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  Jorge Vasquez

 

Jorge Vasquez

Inspiring Scientist—Dr. Jorge Vasquez

My father was a biologist who brought his family from Cuba to the United States in 1961. I still remember as a boy long walks with him on the beach as he pointed out the different organisms and the beauty of our planet. Those long walks instilled in me a love for understanding our planet, and more importantly, the desire to make sure we are good stewards of the precious gift we call planet Earth. There were many times during my educational career that I would take my inspiration from those walks.

After finishing my Masters Degree in Oceanography, I was  hired at JPL by Lee Fu to work on supporting altimetric missions, including the Navy GEOSAT and eventually NASA’ TOPEX/Poseidon, done in collaboration with the French Space Agency (CNES). Soon I would find out that JPL would pay for me to go back to school and after two years, and with the backing Lee Fu, decided to finish my PHD at the University of Southern California. During this time my father passed away. There were moments when I questioned whether I would be able to finish my PHD. My father had been such an important part of my life. Fortunately I had a wonderful advisor, Professor Tom Dickey, who saw my potential and was extremely supportive during this difficult time. After realizing my father would not want me to quit I finished my PHD in 1992.

I will always be extremely grateful to JPL for allowing me to finish my graduate work and give me the opportunity to work with some of the outstanding scientists in satellite oceanography, including Lee Fu and Victor Zlotnicki. It has been a blessing. The journey of how a three old kid  immigrated from Cuba with his family, grew up in a small town in West Virginia, went to the University of Southern California, and ended up as an oceanographer at JPL, is a miracle in itself.
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