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Full STEM Ahead

This article appeared in a June 2016 issue of the student newsletter.

By Susan Aycock

With her Brookhaven College associate degree behind her, STEM scholar Delia Peña is planning on a big future. She wants to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering so that she can create affordable prosthetic limbs for children and veterans.

Though she’d always loved math and science, Delia hadn’t decided on a career direction until a high school classmate underwent extensive physical therapy after a spinal cord injury. “I went with her a lot to her rehab sessions,” she says. “It was in the same building as patients and biomedical engineers working with prosthetics, and something just really clicked for me.”

Though she’d originally planned on biomedical engineering, a 10-week STEM-sponsored externship with Sharyland Utilities changed Delia’s focus to mechanical engineering. She and her team studied the potential use of drones to inspect power line damage for the company — a utility affiliated with Hunt Consolidated Inc.— figuring physical specifications, estimated cost, feasibility and governing laws. “Once I got into the research of what the drones do, it gave me a lot of perspective on mechanical engineering,” says Delia.

Faculty Mentor a Major Influence

Delia also sings the praises of her faculty mentor, Brookhaven physics professor and STEM Fellow Anahita Sidhwa. “It’s good to know that someone who knows so much about STEM fields is behind me and encouraging me to succeed,” she says.

Says Professor Sidhwa, “Delia is an excellent student:  intelligent, conscientious, motivated to succeed and interested in learning at a deeper level.”

Having graduated from Brookhaven and now taking transferrable courses there and at North Lake, Delia also holds three part-time jobs. She serves as a STEM ambassador, a chemistry and physics tutor to high school students, and as a fitness facility operations member. Her chosen educational and career path are not easy, she admits, but she’s confident she will succeed —​ thanks in large part to her experience as a STEM scholar. “There are lots of opportunities out there but hardly any are so hands-on, and I’m just so proud to be a part of the STEM Institute,” she says.“

Planning a High-Tech and High-Impact Career

Delia not only wants a high-tech STEM career, she wants to help others along the way. “Sure, I want to succeed in my job but I also want to encourage young women and minorities to believe that nothing can stop them,” she says. “I want to help make prosthetics more accessible. And I want to do that hands-on: working, fixing and building them.

“I’m thankful to the STEM Institute for giving me the knowledge and opportunity to go for my goals.”