November 2019: Indigenous People/First Nations Heritage
Native Affiliation: Diné (Navajo)
Scientific Contribution: First Navajo woman to be board certified in surgery.
Dr. Alvord blends western medicine with her indigenous values to not just fix medical problems, but to heal the patient. Her philosophy of healing is that health is the outcome of maintaining strong and healthy relationships in every aspect of our lives. According to Dr. Alvord, healing is about providing psychological and spiritual comfort in addition to addressing a patient’s physical needs.
Quote: “Hospitals need to have places where you can see trees and grass and sky and sun. Beauty is so important – artwork on the walls, gardens, outdoor porches with a view. A hospital should also have the right smells, the right foods, the right sounds, the things in life that soothe us. We should also avoid the things that are wrong, that cause stress – no harsh sounds, no bright lights, no invasive overhead paging.”
Photo Courtesy of U.S. National Library of Medicine
Scientific Contribution: Physicist who derived a new electron temperature scaling law for laser-produced plasmas.
Fred Begay began studying physics by accident. Having been educated at a government-run vocational school as a child, Begay was unfamiliar with academic subjects when he enrolled in college with his veteran benefits, so he picked a major at random. Much of his career was spent trying to use controlled thermonuclear fusion in plasmas to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. He posits that soliton turbulence in the plasma causes instabilities that make plasmas useless for fusion.
Quote: “I learned to think abstractly and develop reasoning skills when I was growing up, learning about lasers and radiation in the Navajo language. But [these ideas] are buried in our own abstract language. The Navajo has mysterious ideas about science which cannot be interpreted into English.”
Photo Courtesy of American Physical Society
Native Affiliation: Diné (Navajo)
Scientific Contribution: Crime scene specialist working to reduce fatal accidents with design of self-driving vehicles.
Dezbah Hatathli worked in criminal justice as an emergency responder and dispatcher, but her career took a personal turn when her mother was killed in a preventable car accident, slipping on an icy road and colliding with a bus. Now Hatathli works as a Vehicle Operations Specialist for Waymo, testing software for self-driving vehicles
Quote: “Making the decision to leave my family, home and cultural lifestyle to attend Dartmouth College was one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced, but it has shaped me into being the confident and adventurous person I am today. I am very appreciative of my family for always supporting me and keeping me focused.”
Photo Courtesy of Women of Silicon Valley
Scientific Contribution: Studying how nature constructs architecturally unique natural products to increase the capabilities of organic synthesis through the development of powerful reactions and strategies.
Erik Sorensen is not only a brilliant, award-winning chemist, but a strong mentor and role model to the students in his research group. His research focuses on studying the molecular architecture of physiologically active natural products as inspiration for synthesizing complex organic chemicals with intricate structures from relatively simple chemicals. Sorensen has also been involved in efforts to encourage more Native Americans to pursue STEM careers.
Quote: “Define your interests as scientists as clearly as possible and let your heart lead you forward. Pursue your passion and do what you want to do. We spend most of our lives at work and I’m a big believer that one needs to be happy with what he or she does on a day to day basis.”
Photo Courtesy of Princeton University
Scientific Contribution: Founder of Native American Women in Computing, designed an Android app to teach and preserve the Miwok language.
Andrea Delgado-Olson has done extensive research on the effect of language loss on a person’s identity. As a result of experiencing the near loss of her tribal language, Delgado-Olson developed a way to connect her language with technology for educational purposes.
Quote: “My mother was an attorney for the federal government in the Office of Special Council. She was the head of an office full of men, which is what women face in many industries, tech being one of the worst fields for women. She taught me about strength and leadership, but also about persistence and achieving your goals no matter the obstacles. I am strong because of my mother and hope that the work I’m doing makes her proud.”
Photo Courtesy of Anita Borg Institute
Scientific Contribution: Key inventor of smart cloud technology.
A prolific inventor, David Petite has revolutionized wireless communication. His inventions are currently being used in personalized security systems, soil management, home appliances, industrial plant monitoring, and building automation. He is also an entrepreneur who has led many successful technology companies. He is a staunch advocate of Native American Intellectual Property rights.
Quote: “I believe if we as First People had never lost the land that was taken from us, if we were from any other origin than here in America, we would have had a cultural government that might have been defeated but as a people we would have survived and our human rights would have prevailed thus we would not have to be talking about theft of IP rights because we would have had the ability to control it with our human rights.”
Photo Courtesy of Native American Intellectual Enterprise Council
Scientific Contribution: Hydrologist studying the natural and human disturbances to watershed will impact indigenous populations.
Karletta Chief is not only a skilled hydrologist and environmental engineer, she works tirelessly on issues of environmental justice related to indigenous Americans. From climate change to gold mining, Chief serves as an ambassador between indigenous communities and the science community.
Quote: “In stark contrast to the 99% of Americans who have access to clean water, 12% of Native Americans in the U.S. do not have access to clean water. On the Navajo Nation, 25-40% of households haul water. In addition, tribes have 10% of the U.S. energy reserves and contribute billions of dollars to the national energy economy, but are only 1% of the U.S. population, making them vulnerable to impacts of mining on their people and environment.”
Photo Courtesy of University of Arizona
Scientific Contribution: First Native American astronaut to walk in outer space.
John Herrington is a role model for not giving up. His first attempt at college was unsuccessful, so he quit college and worked on a survey team in the Colorado mountains. Discovering a love for problem-solving and an aptitude for math, Herrington made a second attempt at college, earning a degree in applied math. But his dream was to become a pilot, so he joined the Navy and earned his commission as a Naval Aviator. In 1996, Herrington was selected as an astronaut and in 2002, became the first Native American to walk in space during the 16th shuttle mission to the ISS.
Quote: “What I share with kids is that you can have a dream, you can have struggles, but you can overcome those struggles through perseverance and the right mentors in your lives and making good decisions.”
Photo Courtesy of NASA
Scientific Contribution: Discovered the 15th class of convex pentagons to tile the plane.
Jennifer McLoud studies more accessible areas of mathematics to allow her to involve undergraduate students in her research. She studies knot theory, tiling theory, and combinatorics in discrete mathematics. As part of an undergraduate-focused research project, McLoud and her undergraduate student, David Von Derau, discovered the 15th pentagon that is capable of tiling the plane.
Quote: “The cool thing in mathematics is that sometimes you have a simply stated problem that doesn’t have a simple solution.”
Photo Courtesy of University of Washington Bothell
Scientific Contribution: Proposed a new model to more accurately explain how skeletal muscles develop in the embryo
Wilfred Denetclaw knew that, as a biologist, he was likely to be the only Navajo scientists at any university where he is employed. He credited his attendance at a community college for preparing him to be successful in academics. Denetclaw became a biomedical researcher because he wanted to study biology, but felt that medicine was not exactly right for him. He studied chicken embryos as a model for understanding muscle formation in humans.
Quote: “In the seventh grade, I first learned about the cell being the structural unit of organic life. I was fascinated to learn that each person is made up of trillions of these tiny cells that could only be seen through a microscope.”
Photo Courtesy of San Francisco State University
Scientific Contribution: First female engineer at Lockheed Martin who developed operational systems critical to the Apollo program.
On August 9, 2018, Mary G. Ross achieved Google fame and widespread recognition by being featured in a Google Doodle. Ross was the great-great granddaughter of Chief John Ross, who was forced to lead the Cherokee along the Trail of Tears. Known to her colleagues as a top notch aeronautical engineer and team player, her designs were critical to the Apollo mission. The extent of her contributions to space travel may never be known, as much of her work is still classified.
Quote: “To function efficiently in today’s world, you need math. The world is so technical, if you plan to work in it, a math background will let you go farther and faster.”
Photo Courtesy of Cherokee Almanac
Scientific Contribution: President of Arrow Creek Resources petroleum exploration company.
Russell Stands-Over-Bull considers English his second language, having spoken the Crow language from childhood. After completing his Ph.D., he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey in coal geology before transitioning to petroleum resources. He founded Arrow Creek Resources as a mechanism to help tribes develop their resources, including the Crow, Arapaho, and Shoshone nations.
Quote: “Life is out there for the taking. Whether you’re from the affluent suburbs of Beverly Hills, the inner city of Brooklyn, or from the Indian reservations of Montana, life isn’t easy, but success awaits everyone out there. It’s for those that are willing to go after it with everything they have. So go get it!”
Photo Courtesy of Kingdom Business Conference