Yaítza Luna-Cruz was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Since a very young age, she has had a passion for science, art and education. In 2003, Dr. Luna-Cruz received a bachelor’s degree in Theoretical Physics at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM). She also completed a master’s degree in Physics, along with the Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology certification in 2008 at UPRM (Thesis: “Optical and Radiative Properties of Aerosols over Puerto Rico using the Multifilter Rotating Shadow-band Radiometer”). That same year, Dr. Luna-Cruz went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Physics at the Howard University Program in Atmospheric Sciences in Washington, DC. Under the supervision of Gregory Jenkins (HUPAS), Andy Heymsfield (NCAR) and Gregory Thompson (NCAR), Yaítza earned the Doctor of Philosophy degree in December 2013 (“Aerosols-Cloud-Microphysics Interactions in Tropical Cyclone Earl”). Since 2009 and as part of her Ph. D., Dr. Luna-Cruz was part of many important collaborative investigations with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and in 2011, she was selected to be part of the NCAR Advanced Study Program (ASP) – Graduate Visitor Program (a very distinguished student position in the atmospheric science field). Yaítza was also recognized as leader through her student years been the founder and first president of the Meteorological Society of Puerto Rico affiliated to the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and a participant in many educational and outreach activities. She also is an active member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Golden Key International Honor Society, CienciaPR and the Latino Student Fund Professional Group.
Dr. Luna-Cruz’s research experience includes a variety of atmospheric topics such as: field observations (airborne & ground), remote and satellite sensors, numerical weather prediction models (WRF model, aerosol-cloud microphysics schemes, atmospheric corrections, atmospheric transport) and operational forecast. With the objective to continue with her contribution to the atmospheric science community, Yaítza joined the Engility Corporation in June 2014 (currently Applied Research Associates –ARA) as an Atmospheric Physicist/Meteorologist at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Technical Reachback in which she provides operational, research/development, training, and subject matter expert advice as well as federal and international decision support as part of DTRA Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) and the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high- yield Explosives (CBRNE) Command.