Sandra Begay-Campbell

Current Position: Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories
Sandra Begay-Campbell
Highlight 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. I was a first quarter graduate student at Stanford when the earthquake hit. Through prayer and reflection, I understood my unique role as an American Indian engineer. I must use my best knowledge to design structures for earthquake resistance, but my cultural heritage taught me the wisdom that engineers ultimately cannot control Mother Nature and we have to accept the consequences from natural phenomena.
November 15, 2007Her job: Principal Member of the Technical Staff, Sandia National Laboratories
Describe what you do in your current work situation? Hello. I am a Navajo and I 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.
Why did you choose 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 worked on a variety of interesting public projects, which included work with architects.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? Associate of Science, Pre-engineering, University of New Mexico Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering, University of New Mexico Master of Science, Structural Engineering, Stanford University
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? I answer many questions about renewable energy and working with tribes. To my fellow engineers, I describe the rural conditions and challenges where many tribes are located. I draw from my cultural heritage to explain options to Native people and I serve as a cultural interpreter to my team members.
What do you like best about 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.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of? I am proud to serve as a role model and mentor. I am especially proud of my three nieces (my cousins' daughters are considered my nieces) who have become engineers and I have another young niece who is planning to major in engineering.
Please tell us a little about your family. My parents are both my role models and mentors. As a tribal leader, my father showed me that I needed to use my skills to assist other American Indians. Before my mother’s death, she guided me as a working woman and mother. I am very proud of my sister's twins who bring me joy and laughter.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? My short-term goal is to continue working towards a large wind farm development on the Navajo Nation. My long-term goal to change the image of today’s engineers. I fondly refer to myself as an Injuneer.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? My family and teachers always encouraged me to attend college and I knew that a college education was necessary to pursue a rewarding career.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? If possible, I would encourage young women to discover what an engineering career is like by visiting with a women engineer.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I enjoy Science Fiction television shows like Stargate SG-1 and the X-Files. My favorite X-File episode is where the Navajo's saved the world. I especially enjoy visiting with family and friends.