One of four children in a migrant farming family from Mexico, Hernandez -- who didn't learn English until he was 12 years old -- spent much of his childhood on what he calls "the California circuit," traveling with his family from Mexico to southern California each March, then working northward to the Stockton area by November, picking strawberries and cucumbers at farms along the route. They would then return to Mexico for Christmas and start the cycle all over again in the spring.
"Some kids might think it would be fun to travel like that," Hernandez laughs, "but we had to work. It wasn't a vacation."
After graduating high school, Hernandez enrolled at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering and was awarded a full scholarship to the graduate program at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he continued his engineering studies. In 1987, he accepted a full-time job with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he had worked as a co-op in college.
While at Lawrence Livermore, Hernandez worked on signal and image processing applications in radar imaging, computed tomography, and acoustic imaging. Later in his career, Hernandez worked on developing quantitative x-ray film imaging analysis techniques for the x-ray laser program. Hernandez applied these techniques in the medical physics arena and co-developed the first full-field digital mammography imaging system. This system has proven useful for detecting breast cancer at an earlier stage than present film/screen mammography techniques. Hernandez has won recognition awards for his work on this project. He has also worked in the international arena where he represented Lawrence Livermore and the U.S. Department of Energy on Russian nuclear non-proliferation issues.
In 2001, Hernández joined the Johnson Space Center and soon became Chief of the Materials and Processes Branch. During the astronaut application process, Hernández had to meet with a review board. That's where he came face-to-face with his original inspiration: Franklin Chang-Diaz.
"It was a strange place to find myself, being evaluated by the person who gave me the motivation to get there in the first place," Hernández says. "But I found that we actually had common experiences -- a similar upbringing, the same language issues. That built up my confidence. Any barriers that existed, he had already hurdled them."
Hernández smiles. "Now it's my turn!"
Hernández was selected as part of the 19th class of astronauts in 2004. In 2006, José completed Astronaut Candidate Training and in 2009, he was a mission specialist on the STS-128 mission on board the Space Shuttle, Discovery.
Since leaving NASA, he served as the Executive Director of Strategic Operations at MEI Technologies in Texas. In 2012, he ran for the US House of Representatives in the 10th California Congressional District.
Hernández recently received the 2016 National Hispanic Hero Award presented by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute.
CEO of Tierra Luna Engineering, LLC, José Hernández continues his long history in the field of engineering and space.
Reaching For Your Own Stars: A Recipe To Succeed In Life
Jose Hernandez's talk is an effective motivational talk where individuals leave so inspired, they re-evaluate and upgrade their personal and professional goals in life. This is accomplished by empowering attendees through his anecdotal stories of hard work and perseverance. He shares a simple yet effective recipe that serves as an effective tool in the empowerment process.
•Reaching your full potential
•Dare to dream big when you are willing to work hard for it
•Jose shares his 6 ingredient recipe to success that lead him to his goal of becoming an Astronaut
•His conference leads to re-evaluation and upgrading of the audience's goal
Jose discusses how he developed his leadership and communication skills both as a social advocate in various community-based organizations and through experiences as he moved up through middle/senior management positions at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and NASA.
Jose talks about his experiences as a businessman, from owning a restaurant to creating a successful aerospace consulting firm to being coming back to his roots as a vineyard farmer and developing his own line of wines.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
This is a sensitivity training course where Jose points out that everyone has internal biases. Acknowledging and managing these biases not only allows us to treat everyone equally, but in an inclusive manner. In doing so, we can focus on individualistic needs. In a diverse workplace, differences exist, and people require support in different ways. Equity asks us to acknowledge that everyone has different needs, experiences, and opportunities.
Imposter Syndrome: How to Thrive in Today's Challenging Environment
This talks centers around the subject of common to high achievers, people who break barriers and/or are "first in their family to achieve." These achievements cause individuals to doubt their abilities to the point they feel like a fraud. It disproportionately affects people who break barriers and are one of the first in their families to have college graduate careers. They typically find it difficult to accept their accomplishments and many questions whether they're deserving of recognition and accolades. Jose not only talks about the subject, but also discuss methods he used to overcome such feelings.
From Migrant Farmworker To NASA Astronaut
This talk centers around the importance of staying on the leading edge of technology and how it affects our everyday lives. It introduces the concept of disruptive technologies, how to identify and take advantage of them.
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