Fil-Am grad boosted by family conquers rocket science
DALY CITY, California – Sky definitely is not the limit for Lauren Patricia Tiongco deVera, who graduated cum laude with a degree in Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.
Rocket science used to be the seen as the exclusive realm of brainiacs who eat the prerequisite physics and complex technology for breakfast. Indeed “rocket science, often used to describe something difficult, is the four-year course deVera has just completed with honors.
Receiving her diploma, however, is only the first step in Daly City-born deVera’s ultimate career goal – advancing human space flight.
The El Camino High alumnus is drawn to studying “how the human body reacts to the harsh environments of space during long duration space missions. I will eventually go back to school and get my master’s in aerospace engineering involving human factors.”
Space travel has earned quite the cachet recently with billionaires plunking megabucks for the shortest joyride to the farthest destination possible to humans. In the not-so-distant future, deVera may have her hands on the buttons controlling these once-in-a-lifetime escapades, fulfilling a wish she had in grammar school.
Now 24, deVera vividly remembers the family jaunts that stirred her curiosity.
“My Lola Marie and Lolo Leo (Sands) would take my sister and me to different museums and events that would open my mind up to the world of both science and art, and I immediately fell in love,” she told INQUIRER.net of days spent with her maternal grandparents at the San Francisco Exploratorium and the zoo.
Science, too, healed her childhood ailments.
“Whenever I was sick, my mom would bring me to her work at San Francisco State University’s Biology department, where I passed my time drawing and exploring,” she added. “I remember my mom showing me the experiment where you sit on a swivel chair and turn using only a bicycle wheel.”
That image flashed before her eyes in a “full circle moment” years later, “when a professor demonstrated the physics of a gyroscope using a similar method,” reinforcing her gratitude “for the people in my life who taught me to be curious, make mistakes, and to keep exploring.”
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The younger Lauren had varied and disparate interests, including hula and Tahitian dance. She enjoyed music and played guitar to a wide range of genres from Taylor Swift to the Beatles. Volleyball was a favorite sport. As a teen she imagined becoming a fashion designer or a paleontologist, to the point of begging her parents to take her to a show called “Live Walking Dinosaurs.”
Daniel and Patricia (Tiongco) deVera introduced daughters Lauren anda Natalia to diverse environments, indulged their sense of adventure and thirst for learning. Education was paramount to the elder Tiongcos.
Daniel, a commercial loans portfolio manager for a mortgage banking firm, holds degrees in accounting, computer engineering and business communications. After earning her AS in Business Administration, Patricia went on to become program manager in Science Education at the College of Science and Engineering in San Francisco State, from where she retired in 2021.
Both are thrilled by the successes of Natalia, 29, a CPA working in New York, and Lauren.
“Since the day they were born, we made it our goal to make sure that they would become strong, independent women,” Patricia tells INQUIRER.net.
“The careers that they chose in their lives are male-dominated especially in STEM, but that did not stop them from being passionate and driven to succeed. They both have been mentors to other women in their fields.”
Lauren does not have look far to name those in whose footsteps she follows.
“My mom, dad, and sister have been consistent role models in my life,” she declares. “My mom is a force of nature, self-determined, and always gives back to her community when she can. She’s a shoulder that I lean on during the best, worst, and everything in between moments.”
She describes her father as “the jack of all traits, intelligent, and is always dependable,” her sister “fearless, strong, smart, and graceful.”
Beyond the home, she devours stories posted by aerospace engineer Naia Butler-Craig, Xploration Outer Space and Emily’s Wonder Lab host-executive producer Emily Calandrelli, and electrical engineer Katya Echazarreta – millennial science communicators who surprised her with “insightful and inspiring” replies to her comments “despite having thousands of followers.”
Daniel and Patricia also instilled ancestral pride in their daughters.
Lauren identifies as a “Filipino Burmese American woman” though she relates more to her mother’s maternal side since her grandparents’ divorce. She looks back gleefully at visits to Manila, where her grandmother Maria Teresa “Marie” Tiongco Sands’ family co-founded and continues to hold leadership roles in Centro Escolar University near Malacanang Palace.
On her Fil-Am side, she also finds “community.”
“There are not many of us in American pop culture, but when one is known, we lift those people up until everyone knows their name.”
The American in her is open about her personal issues and how she overcomes a challenge. She told INQUIRER.net of a bout with anxiety due to “the pressures of academia.” She felt lost and isolated, she shared, until she had a dream of her ancestors whom she had seen only in photo albums singing and dancing, “celebrating me on my graduation day.” Her Lolo Leo, who passed away in her first semester of college, the same one who had taken her to bookstores and science museums, appeared bearing golden tulips that he placed at the bottom of the hill, smiling broadly at her.
She woke up to clarity. “That dream made me realize that I don’t have to keep these feelings to myself and inspired me to open up about them to my family.” The loneliness slowly dissipated, and she got through the rest of the semester, “even more excited about my future.”
What she held in her heart she wore on graduation day. For that momentous occasion, she donned an improvised “terno” to proclaim the overwhelming emotions she harbored.
“I chose to wear a Filipiniana bolero to honor my family who have unconditionally loved and supported me throughout my entire life and still continue to do so, my ancestors who I know are watching over me, to all the women of color who paved the way for women like me to succeed in any profession,” she explained.