Rocket scientist, explorer, and champion for women in tech. Natalie Panek works in mission systems at MDA’s Robotics and Automation division, on Canadian space robotics and other space exploration programs. She wants to inspire the next generation of game-changers to dive head-on into challenge and pursue careers in engineering and tech. Natalie is the 2013 recipient of the University of Calgary Graduate of the Last Decade Award and the Northern Lights Award Foundation 2013 Rising Star in aerospace. She was also named a WXN Top 100 award winner in 2014, on Forbes 30 under 30 in 2015, one of Flare Magazine’s inaugural 30 under 30 in 2015, and one of Canada’s top women explorers by Canadian Geographic in 2016.
Natalie has had extraordinary experiences that have shaped her dreams of becoming an astronaut. Her love of space and aviation led her to obtain a private pilot’s license to fly a single-engine aircraft, as well as build and drive a solar-powered car across North America, which she drove with a team across North America. She has participated in internships at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center and at NASA’s Ames Research Center, where she worked on a mission to Mars. With degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Natalie works on a number of high profile space projects including MDA’s satellite servicing initiative and ESA’s 2020 ExoMars rover program.
Natalie is often asked to share her story and is a popular speaker on the topics of leadership, space exploration, and women in technology as represented by National Speakers Bureau. Natalie was also recently named a member of the prestigious Explorer’s Club and Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.