REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama - Women and girls should explore everything in their education and careers that interests them and be true to who they are, according to one U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command engineer.Rebecca Nagurney, a lead engineer in the High Energy Laser Division, encourages women to explore their career interests and pursue their goals, even if they are in a traditionally male-dominated field."Never feel that being female means you can't do the same things as a male," Nagurney said. "Be true to yourself; don't put blinders up."Nagurney attended Penn State, where she earned her bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering in 2016."I was the only girl in my classes for the first couple of years. My engineering professor in those classes was really hard on me, but he was tough on me because he knew I was going to face challenges in the future," said Nagurney. "By doing that, he prepared me for the future and made me a stronger person. He made me a critical thinker and a problem solver and taught me not to become discouraged and think I couldn't do
something because I'm female."After graduating, Nagurney started working at USASMDC as a Department of the Army intern."As I was reaching the end of my college career, my mom and dad talked to me about the importance of having a good job somewhere where you're happy but also stable, and that led me here to SMDC."After her two-year internship ended, Nagurney faced the decision of whether to continue her work at USASMDC or choose a different career path. Nagurney said while the majority of the interns she worked with chose to pursue careers in other industries, she chose to remain at USASMDC because she found meaning in the work she was doing."I saw myself being able to be a part of something important and felt like I was making a difference in my job and the work I was doing," said Nagurney. "I am able to interact with Soldiers and put my hands on equipment, which makes my work more real. I spend a portion of my job in a lab environment, but I also get to talk to the Soldiers and hear their feedback, and that helps me become a better engineer."Nagurney is currently the lead engineer for the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser and a lead platform engineer for the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser programs. Nagurney said she enjoys doing work outreach whenever she is able to, especially working with young students and encouraging them to explore their interest in science and engineering."Young girls face a lot of pressure to be cool and look a certain way now, even more than when I was in school. That's why it's important for people my age to do outreach to talk to them and show them this stuff is cool," said Nagurney. "Don't think because you're interested in math, science or engineering you won't be fun. It's always harder for a younger person to grasp, but it's great for them to see someone older than them have a job related to their interests. It gives them a bigger picture than just their sixth-grade class."Nagurney said it is important to explore everything available in a person's academics and careers, because she may discover an unexpected interest."It's so important to explore everything. There is never harm in asking about something that interests you," said Nagurney. "The worst thing you can be told is no. You always just have to keep your mind open. I took courses in college and have done things here at SMDC that I thought I would have no interest in but that I wound up really enjoying and learning a lot. The most important thing is to keep your mind open and always express your ideas."In addition to exploring everything possible, Nagurney says it is important for women to conquer the fear of failure."I had a fear of failing, but I got over that quickly. You are bound to fail at things, but it doesn't matter. When you fail at something, it means you get the chance to try it again, or move on to something new. Never let the fear of failing hold you back."