Mau­reen Dutton, E’91, knew what she wanted to be since she was a child. “I was the youngest of three chil­dren and looked up to my big brother. He wanted to be an astro­naut, so I wanted to be an astro­naut,” Dutton says.

Math and sci­ence, for­tu­nately, came easy to her. So she fol­lowed an engi­neering path, and after high school res­olutely boarded the early-​​morning com­muter train for the long trips from Attle­boro, Mass., to North­eastern in pur­suit of her engi­neering degree.

Before long, her dogged deter­mi­na­tion got her noticed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. “I found out who the co-​​op con­tact was and what I had to do to get a job there.” Every quarter, she sent her résumé or tran­script to JSC and checked in with the co-​​op coor­di­nator. “My aim was to make sure JSC didn’t forget about me, and that I didn’t irri­tate the JSC co-​​op office.”

It worked. She com­pleted three co-​​op tours at NASA, was hired straight out of North­eastern and has worked at JSC for 22 years. She prefers to stay on the ground, though, rather than pursue her child­hood dream of exploring space.

Dutton, who now lives in the Houston area, is pyrotechnic test director, respon­sible for testing, cer­ti­fying and qual­i­fying the pyrotechnic hard­ware that aided in the Space Shuttle launches. She now per­forms the same mission-​​critical tasks for the Orion pro­gram, the next-​​generation deep-​​space vehicle.

She also finds time to be a mentor, bringing math and sci­ence to life for K–12 students.

Her resolve has brought her ful­fill­ment in life and work. “I say, ‘Dare to live your dreams.’ I did, and I’m loving every minute.”