Aaron Yazzie is Ashįįhí (Salt Clan) and born for Todích'íi'nii (Bitter Water Clan). He is the son of Kee Yazzie of Black Mesa, Arizona and Shirley (Dugi) Yazzie of Shadow Mountain, Arizona. Aaron is Diné (Navajo). He was born in Tuba City, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation and raised in Holbrook, Arizona, where he graduated from Holbrook High School in 2004. He attended Stanford University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2008.
Aaron is a Mechanical Systems Engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He designs mechanical systems for NASA’s robotic space research missions, focusing on Planetary Sample Acquisition and Handling.
Aaron has had previous experience on projects studying Jupiter, Earth, and most extensively – the planet Mars. He has contributed to the Mars Science Laboratory Rover mission, the Mars InSight Lander Mission, the Mars2020 Rover Mission, and now the Mars Sample Return Campaign.
Outside of work, Aaron is passionate about participating in higher education and STEM outreach activities for students of all ages - especially those students from underrepresented and Indigenous communities. He is a Sequoyah Fellow of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, where he works to increase the representation of Indigenous peoples in the fields of science, technology, and engineering. Aaron engages in public speaking engagements across the nation, including conferences, high school and collegiate commencement ceremonies, recognition banquets, and online virtual presentations. He also has appeared in public media: PBS NOVA, Netflix Spirit Rangers, PBS "Native America", National Geographic "Built for Mars: The Perseverance Rover." Past awards include: the Stanford School of Engineering Dean’s Leadership Award, the 2019 Jet Propulsion Laboratory Bruce Murray Award, the 2021 AISES Technical Excellence Award, and he has been inducted in the Stanford Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame.