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Dana Angelo: Shaping the Future for Female Engineers

Ben LammIf you talk to Stony Brook University junior Dana Angelo, you get the sense that she is a reluctant pioneer. At a time when there is still a pronounced gender gap in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, she is president of an organization — the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) — in which only 15 percent of its members are women and only 27 percent hold appointed executive-board positions.

The self-described once-shy girl from a mostly Spanish neighborhood in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx leads a 22-member executive board that oversees, plans and executes about 30 professional development and social events throughout the academic year.  What’s more, under her direction the Stony Brook Chapter of SHPE has won a number of awards, most notably, best chapter in region (which consists of 66 chapters), best plan to involve more engineering grad students, and a membership drive award.

Her initial inspiration to become an engineer came from her Uncle Bob, an engineer, who told her that she should become one, too. “Just having that possibility in my mind is one of the reasons I applied to the College of Engineering at Stony Brook. All it takes is one person who believes in you and makes you think, ‘yeah, I could do it,’ ’’ she said.

But she never wanted to be the token female surrounded by male engineers. “When I was in class, even the ones with hundreds of students, I could count the number of [women] on both hands,” said Angelo. “I felt discouraged from asking questions because I felt they might be unintelligent ones. Every night I would call my parents and tell them I couldn’t do it.”

A strong belief in the notion that engineering was her true calling and finding a support group when she joined SHPE helped her stay the course. “You need to surround yourself with people who care about what they do because they will motivate and inspire you to keep on going and you will never be deterred,” said Angelo.

And that is exactly what happened: Angelo has chosen her specialization, Materials Science and Engineering, and is doing what she loves — building mini-robots, spring-propelled “mousetrap” cars, and easy-to-clean, well-ventilated and temperature-controlled incubators to house live animals.

“I find Materials Science interesting because I want to make things better for people,” she said.

A paid internship at Hicksville, New York-based National Grid in Electric Forecasting and Analysis last summer fueled that interest.  Angelo updated a database of hundreds of generators, making sure that information such as peak capacities, locations and fuel types were correct.

“That got me interested in energy efficiency on a large scale and renewable energy,” she said.

This summer she will work at Wendel Energy in Hauppauge, New York, learning how the company conducts energy efficiency audits and creating plans for buildings to be both environmentally friendly and economical.

“I didn’t really consider myself a trailblazer,” Angelo said. “But the more I talk to people and the more I think about it, I do set an example. I just do what I love and work really hard at it. [I say to] young women who want to be the first to do something, it will be challenging. But nothing in life worth doing is easy. Everything you learn from your struggles will help you a thousand times more than the times where things went smoothly.”

Angelo looks to the future as a chance to teach others what she has learned along the way.

“Twenty years from now I want to be CEO of my own engineering firm and I want to have a Bronx location where I can make students there aware of engineering opportunities,” she said.

By Glenn Jochum; photo by John Griffin

 

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