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Pioneering NASA engineer welcomes incoming engineering students to campus

Dr. Christine Mann Darden speaks to first-year students during the 2017 NC State College of Engineering Welcome.

Dr. Christine Mann Darden had several bits of sage wisdom to share with first-year students during the 2017 NC State College of Engineering Welcome.

Darden, a retired member of the Senior Executive Service of the NASA Langley Research Center, was the keynote speaker for the 17th annual College Welcome, held in August in the Talley Student Union on the NC State campus.

She ran through a long list of tips for a successful career as a student and engineer.

Perceive of yourself where you want to go. Take good notes and keep them organized. The night before a test, make sure you have put the work in so that you can get a good night’s sleep rather than trying to cram all night. Learn to write well and gain the ability to explain the dense engineering topics you study to a lay audience.

“A number of engineers don’t write very well,” Darden said, getting a laugh from the roughly 1,457 first-year engineering students in attendance.

After nearly 40 years of service, she retired in March 2007 from NASA Langley Research Center as director of the Office of Strategic Communications and Education. In that position, she was responsible for the center’s external and internal communications, community outreach, governmental relations and educational outreach.

Prior to her career at Langley Research Center, Darden served as a mathematics instructor at Virginia State College and taught high school mathematics. During her time at NASA, she authored more than 57 technical papers and articles, primarily in the areas of sonic boom prediction, sonic boom minimization and supersonic wing design and is recognized as an international expert in these areas. She has received dozens of awards and honors including two NASA Medals, one for her work and leadership of the Sonic Boom Program, and the other for her active involvement in working with and encouraging students to pursue careers in math and science. In addition, she received the Black Engineer of the Year Outstanding Achievement in Government Award and the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.

She was recently included in the book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race” by Margot Shetterly. The book was adapted into the 20th Century Fox film “Hidden Figures,” based on the NASA “human computers” who, as members of the segregated West Computers, contributed to the NASA Space Program in the early 1960s.

Return to contents or download the Spring/Summer 2018 NC State Engineering magazine (PDF, 3MB) along with the insert about Fitts-Woolard Hall (PDF, 479KB)

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