Dana Bolles works in “Science Communication for the Search for Life Beyond Earth” at NASA and is an ASTC IF/THEN Ambassador.

Our Meet the Engineer series features the work of IF/THEN Ambassadors in engineering fields. Each profile shares stories, videos, activities, and free downloads, all designed to inspire girls to pursue STEM. The Works Museum is a proud recipient of an IF/THEN Gender Equity Grant.


In 1975, a teacher asks her students “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Dana’s reply “An astronaut.” How exciting to work in space, where she would no longer be disabled. Having been born with no legs, Dana rides an electric wheelchair to be independent. Dana grew up in a loving supportive family. Her mom taught her there were no limits to her abilities and she pushed her to excel. She also taught Dana to ignore the people who would tease her and treat her poorly. During her education, Dana focused on engineering. She thought, “if I can’t find useful equipment to help me with activities, I can design it as an engineer.” Was it a coincidence that she was hired by NASA? She is a firm believer that there are no coincidences in life.


Dana Bolles began working for NASA in 1995. The first 13 years of her career were as an engineer in regulatory compliance, from payload safety to environmental protection, and she worked at 3 centers: Kennedy Space Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Ames Research Center. Her most recent opportunity, communicating NASA’s exploration of life beyond Earth, added another center under her belt, NASA Headquarters. Dana’s diverse work experience has given her a great appreciation not only for the programs/projects side of NASA but also for the mission support functions.


In addition to her official duties, Dana volunteers for employee resource groups for women, people with disabilities, and LGBT communities. She is a firm believer of the value of diversity and is committed to raising awareness, especially of the unique challenges people with disabilities face in their daily lives. She also has a passion for outreach, encouraging youth, especially girls, to excel and be their best in life.

Dana has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and lives with her partner Shelly and their cats in San Francisco.

“If I can’t find useful equipment to help me with activities, I can design it as an engineer.”

Dana Bolles

Learn about our other If/Then Ambassadors:

Ritu Raman  |  Dana Bolles  |  Helen Tran  |  Ana Maria Porras  |  Ciara Sivels  |  Erika Anderson