Dr Delwyn Moller, has come a long way from a corner dairy in Putaruru, Waikato, to being involved in developing high-resolution radar imaging technology for Nasa.
Tonight the Wanaka-based scientist will accept a Tall Poppy statuette at an event in Auckland, as part of the Kea World Class New Zealand award she won for her contribution to the technology .
The awards recognise global success and celebrate New Zealanders who are helping to “define New Zealand’s international reputation”.
“It is very exciting and quite an honour,” Dr Moller said.
She and her husband and twin children arrived in New Zealand earlier this year to take up the role of director of research at the Alexandra-based Centre for Space Science Technology, on February 12.
“I am very pleased to come back to New Zealand,” she said.
“I grew up in Putaruru and was 16 when I left.
“I am a townie and my dad ran the local corner dairy and mum was a primary school teacher.
“At that age , I was not thinking about science and had no idea what I wanted to do.
“I went to engineering classes but didn’t really like it for the most part, until the final year when we had some practical projects.”
That really ignited her interest and from there she completed her engineering degree with honours at the University of Auckland.
She then gained a doctorate in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst as part of an international study programme.
After that, she spent 11 years with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) working on system engineering for satellite and suborbital radars.
“I feel like I achieved something,” she said.
“I also hung out with astronauts at the training facility.”
She later worked for Remote Sensing Solutions, another Nasa-funded agency, and was involved in developing remote sensing systems for measuring Earth’s surface.