NASA's Centennial Challenges

An exclusive interview with Monsi Roman from NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program. The unique opportunities presented and how literally anyone can get involved. 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Monsi Roman

Centennial Challenges Program Manager at NASA

Monsi C. Roman was appointed Program Manager of the NASA Centennial Challenges Program in June 2015.  In this role Roman manages the day-to-day operations of the Agency Flagship Prizes and Competition program that currently includes  4 active challenge competitions and several challenges in formulation for a total Prize Purse of over $12 M.  The program supports technology developments under the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C..   

Prior to joining the NASA STMD team, Ms. Roman held several positions at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where she started working in September 1989.  From 1989 to 2013 she served as the International Space Station (ISS) Life Support Chief Microbiologist, as part of a small team of scientists and engineers that developed and tested the water and air systems currently keeping the crew alive in the ISS.

In 2010 she was named the Project Manager for the development of the next generation of life support systems, including sensors, that could be used during a mission to Mars.  In that capacity, she was responsible for leading and coordinating the technology development work of 6 NASA Centers and over 30 NASA civil servants. In 2014  she was assigned to NASA Headquarters for a Professional Development Detail, supporting the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Divisions of Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) and International Space Station where she supported the Agency in the areas related to the Journey to Mars. 

Ms. Roman holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a major in Microbiology from the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras and a Master of Science in Microbiology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Ms. Roman has more than 65 technical publications in the areas of space microbiology, biofilm, microbial monitoring, Internal Active Thermal Control System (ITCS), life support systems, technology development and Project Management.  She was the chair for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Life Science and Systems Technical Committee from 2013 to 2015.  

Through her career, Ms. Roman has been an active participant in mentoring, outreach and many different educational events to increase interest in STEM areas.  She has worked with schools (teachers and students K-12), universities, co-workers and has helped find funding for internships in the life support testing area among other things.  She leverages her success as a NASA scientist and manager to develop partnerships with other government agencies, scientific institutes, industry and academia.  This also gives her the opportunity to promote the support and participation in STEM activities to the general community.

Ms. Roman has been the recipient of numerous NASA awards, including two of the most prestigious: NASA Space Flight Awareness Honoree Award and the NASA Silver Snoopy Award (an astronauts personal award, given to fewer than 1% of the NASA workforce, “for outstanding efforts that contribute to the success of human space flight missions”). In addition, she has received the Space Station Program Office Team Excellence Award, Distinguished Performance Awards and several NASA’s Service awards for technical work and outreach efforts.  She also received a NASA “Innovation Award” for: the implementation of innovative processes leading to the formulation and execution of multiple strategically aligned NASA Centennial Challenges Program competitions.

Ms. Roman lives in Huntsville, Al with her husband of 35 years, Jose Roman.  Mr. Roman is an Aerospace Engineer at NASA working on the Space Launch Services (SLS) program.  They have 3 adult sons.