Girls in Science & Technology: Civil Engineer

"As an American Indian, I fondly refer to myself as an injuneer."

What I Do
Hello. I am a Navajo and the former executive director of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). I managed the Society's $3 million operations and educational programs. AISES is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the number of American Indian scientists and engineers. Since leaving AISES in 2000, I have returned to my position on the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories.

Why Engineering?
In the sixth grade, I was very interested in architecture, but I knew I was not an artist. I also enjoyed math and solving problems, so I looked into the engineering profession. I attended a "minority introduction to engineering" program as a high school junior, and I discovered that civil engineers work on a variety of interesting public projects, which include work with architects.

The Best Part of Being an Engineer
I love to solve problems. I also enjoy discovering ways to influence others to assist with these challenges. As a project leader, I enjoyed working with other engineers and our customers. When I analyzed structural problems, I realized how important my work is to the safety of my customers.

One of the earliest challenges I faced was in continuing my structural engineering studies following the 1989 California Bay Area earthquake. Through prayer and reflection, I understood my unique role as an American Indian engineer. I use my best knowledge to design structures for earthquake resistance, but my cultural heritage has taught me that engineers ultimately cannot control Mother Nature and we have to accept the consequences from natural phenomena.

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