Dr. Begoña Vila, Instrument Systems Engineer, James Webb Space Telescope

Dr. Begoña Vila – Instrument Systems Engineer, NASA

Instrument Systems Engineer, NASA

Begoña Vila is an Instrument Systems Engineer from KBR who worked on the Webb telescope and works on the upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. In particular, she is the systems lead for two of the instruments on Webb, one of them is the Fine Guidance Sensor responsible for the pointing and stability of the observatory. 

She led the final cryogenic test at Goddard for all the Science Instruments and supported the testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center, Houston; Northrop Grumman Space Systems, southern California; at the Launch Site in French Guiana; and during the Commissioning period at the Mission Control Center in Space Telescope Science Institute or STScI, Baltimore and continues her support for operations. Vila actively engages in Spanish and English media interviews and outreach activities for the Webb program, including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) events.

Vila's involvement with Webb began in 2006 when she was working with COM DEV International, the Canadian company that developed and tested the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) under the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), one of NASA's international partners. Vila worked with the CSA team to ensure all the tests, analysis, and requirements verifications were complete and the instruments were ready for delivery to NASA in 2012.

She then moved to work at Goddard still as Systems Lead for FGS and NIRISS but expanding her role as Test Director for the final cryogenic test of all the Webb’s instruments and as Deputy Operations Lead for the Science Instruments.

Vila received the NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medal in 2016, which is awarded for a significant specific achievement or substantial improvement in operations, efficiency, service, financial savings, science, or technology that contributes to the mission of NASA. In 2017, Vila received the Wonenburger Planells Prize, which recognizes women in science from the Galicia region of Spain (where she was born).

In 2022, she was again awarded by NASA with the Exceptional Public Service Medal for her years of work developing, testing and commissioning in orbit the JWST Fine Guidance Sensor. In 2023 she was named Honorary Ambassador for Marca España (Spain Brand) on the Science and Innovation Category by the FMRE (Forum of Renowned Spanish Brands), an award presented by the King and Queen of Spain. In 2024, she received the Galician Excellence Title in the Sciences and Medicine Category for her career and work on Webb.   

Vila holds a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester in England. She also has a degree in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Santiago de Compostela and Tenerife in Spain. In addition to these, Vila has a diploma in Spanish-English translation from the Chartered Institute of Linguists in London.

In her free time, Vila enjoys reading mystery novels, watching movies, and exercising, in particular yoga, dancing, kettlebells, walking, and pilates. Vila also enjoys playing the piano and going to musical events. She looks forward to opportunities to spend time with her three kids and her family and friends in Canada and Spain.