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Women @ Energy: Sandra Begay-Campbell

June 6, 2013 - 2:55pm

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Sandra Begay-Campbell is a Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories where she leads Sandia’s technical efforts to assist Native American tribes with their renewable energy developments.

Sandra Begay-Campbell is a Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories where she leads Sandia’s technical efforts to assist Native American tribes with their renewable energy developments.

Check out other profiles in the Women @ Energy series and share your favorites on Pinterest. Sandra Begay-Campbell is a Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories where she leads Sandia’s technical efforts to assist Native American tribes with their renewable energy developments.  Sandra received an Associate of Science – Pre-Engineering and Bachelor of Science - Civil Engineering degree from the University of New Mexico.  She worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories before she earned a Master of Science - Structural Engineering degree from Stanford University.  Sandra also worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory right after graduate school.  For over 22 years, Sandra has been with Sandia National Laboratories.Sandra is a recent recipient of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award; the University of New Mexico’s 2007 Zia Alumnus Award; the 2005 UNM School of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus Award and Stanford University’s 2000 Multicultural Alumni of the Year Award.  Sandra was also selected as a recipient of the Governor's Award for Outstanding Women from the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women.

1) What inspired you to work in STEM?   

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 worked on a variety of interesting public projects, which included work with architects.

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.

2) What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?

It’s exciting, as a Native American woman engineer, to provide technical assistance to tribes who are interested in renewable energy projects. I spend time listening to the tribes about their energy needs. I give the tribes information about renewable energy or green energy.

With the Energy Department, I explain how to work with tribes.  To my fellow engineers, I describe the rural conditions and challenges that tribes face in development of energy projects. I draw from my cultural heritage to explain options to Native people and I serve as a cultural interpreter to my team members.

3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other under-represented groups in STEM?

Technical women work profiles help to showcase their work and accomplishments. Hopefully, these women can also be role models and mentors to young girls. If possible, I would encourage young women to discover what an engineering career is like by visiting with a women engineer. 

One of my long-term goals is to change the image of today’s engineers.

4) Do you have any tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

I think that understanding and using mathematics is very important to enter a STEM field of study. Math is not nerdy or geeky; girls should be encouraged to be sharp, smart and confident. Engineering has a variety of disciplines, which could be of interest to girls; however, I emphasize my enjoyment in helping people by solving problems.

5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?

I enjoy watching action and science fiction movies. One of my favorite sci-fi television shows is an X-File episode is where the Navajos saved the world.

I also enjoy visiting with family and friends when I have free time.

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