Julieta Giraldez has worked at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, since June 2011 and is now a senior research engineer in the Power Systems Engineering Center. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Spain) in Technical Mining Engineering, a master’s in electrical engineering from Colorado School of Mines, and is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in systems engineering at Colorado State University.
What inspired you to work in STEM?
Since I was little, I was lucky to grow up in a family and school environment where being good at math was cool. In high school, I got really interested in astrophysics and the more philosophical, “Where does the universe come from?” questions and that led me to want to study physics. However, I found physics too theoretical and switched to engineering, which is a great field to apply science to society.
What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?
I really enjoy my work, which not everyone is lucky enough to be able to say! When I was introduced in college to the big system that delivers power to our houses called the power grid, it blew my mind. I enjoy working to make the power grid cleaner and more sustainable. I enjoy working with other nerdy scientists and engineers at NREL, but the interaction I have with the real world and industry (utility companies, regulators, and technology providers) to work on more futuristic big picture questions –while helping industry with their today problems – is something that stands out to me about my work.
How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
I think role models are a very important feature that we should work on. If a young girl never meets a woman in STEM, it could influence her confidence in thinking or even considering that it is possible she could become an engineer one day. I also think that, to enable more role models, there still needs to be a push for improved gender equality with longer maternity AND actual paternity leave.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Talk and reach out to people! The silliest question is the question not asked. I find that when I reach out to both men and women in my field to talk about more personal and career-related questions, people are happy to share their experience and most of them go beyond that and provide meaningful help and support. I would say creating yourself a STEM family that can support you professionally is highly recommended.