Tiffany Owens, 37 

System Safety Engineer, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

You've seen the headlines. American students lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to math and science, which could haunt them for years to come in the job market. While politicians talk, engineer Tiffany Owens is doing something about it.

Owens recalls mentors in her New York high school influencing her with their passion during pre-engineering programs. Now it's her turn.

In college she became involved with the National Society of Black Engineers. And when she moved to Richmond roughly a decade ago, she led the effort to re-establish a local chapter after a 10-year hiatus. It since has won several national awards for its collegiate-level programming and alumni work.

"We've been able to build strong ties and partner with local corporations like Dominion where we can help college students," she says. "But to see the students come back and join later is the real accomplishment."

Owens stays active when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math outreach, meaning she's involved in local events such as the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego competition, the Richmond Science Fair and FIRST's robotics competition.

"It's really important to start awareness at an early level," she says.

Owens' day job puts those in-demand engineering skills to work as a system safety engineer mitigating risk at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren division near Maryland. She provides operations support for the Navy and Marines and assesses safety hazards with new equipment.

"It's rewarding just to see our service people come home safely," she says.

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