Maria Catalina became a space enthusiast in 1969 when the Eagle landed on the moon even though her Home Economics teacher told her that the closest she would get to chemistry was by making a good jar of jam and that the closest she would ever get to NASA was to wish upon a star. Being a good student, she wished upon the star in the middle of the Belt of Orion.
Twenty eight years later, the summer, the Pathfinder landed on Mars, Maria won her first NASA Fellowship - the NASA Specialized Center of Research Training (NSCORT) in Exobiology Fellowship to do research involving the origin of life. In 2000, upon graduating with a BA in Bionomy, she deferred an invitation to the new NASA Astrobiology Institute for a PhD program to earn a teaching credential for middle school math and science so she could have the same schedule as her high school aged boys.
Since then, she was nominated for NASA Educator Astronaut in 2003, completed an Educator Scholars program at the US Space and Rocket Center in 2007, and took flight on the Zero G 727 airplane in October of 2007.