Top African Americans in Technology

Donya Douglas on her love of the sciences



Donya Douglas, an associate branch head at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, conducts research to help control temperature and avoid loss of performance on space equipment. (NASA)

Over the next few days will introduce to you three digeratis who are reshaping the world.  In the first of our three-part series, meet NASA’s Donya Douglas.

As a thermal engineer at NASA, Donya Douglas’ research isn’t as far out as one might think. In fact, you might not have to reach any further than your lap to benefit from the technologies that she designs.  Douglas, an instrument systems branch associate head at NASA, conducts heating and cooling research to help control temperature and avoid loss of performance on space crafts, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, and in laptop computers.

You can also find the technologies she’s helped create used to produce heat in water systems and to provide humidity and temperature control in office buildings.

Douglas’ extraordinary interests in science were instilled at a young age, and when she spoke with she emphasized how important it is that she gives back to help young black students generate that same zeal for technology. How did you become interested in your career field?

Donya Douglas: I was always drawn to science and math during my early school years, and had a keen interest in how things worked. By the age of ten, I knew I wanted to be an engineer and by the time I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to work for NASA.  During my sophomore year, when I was selected for an internship with NASA Wallops Flight Facility, I eagerly accepted. Working at NASA early allowed me to broaden my exposure to many different engineering disciplines, and also gave me an opportunity to see both women and minorities in highly technical fields.

What are some of the challenges African Americans face in the science and technology fields?

While there has certainly been an increase in the number of minorities and women in these fields, historically African Americans have been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). I believe that this is primarily due to the fact that we are not exposed to the application of science and technology early in our academic pursuits.  As a result, these areas may not seem relevant or even interesting. Additionally, we often believe that math and science are too difficult.  Believing that you can do well in these areas is more than half the battle. I intend to remain in a technical management position. This will allow me to mentor and play a larger role in the development of younger professionals.

How did you overcome those challenges?

Very early in my academic experience, I had teachers that guided me through my schooling.  They provided opportunities for me to participate in extra-curricular activities involving science demos, field trips, math competitions, etc.  My father raised my

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  • Michelle

    It’s great to see an African American women in science, engineering, and technology. It’s also great that she is willing to give back through mentoring and outreach.

  • Janelle Brown

    Wonderful. I am very proud of my sister and her accomplishments.

  • Toshiba F

    I appreciate the young woman in this story. I myself have a career in Science, Math, Technology and Education. I love to hear stories about African American women in Technology. Donya’s aspiriation and accomplishments are admirable. Giving back to those less fortunate who seek knowledge of the industry is a must and, I must make more time starting today. Hard work and dedication truly has beneficial rewards. I hope your story reaches young girls everywhere. Thanks for the story.

  • Jaydee

    Great article so many stars here at Goddard… that girl got talent….;)

  • Letitia

    I love to read of stories about Black women in succeeding in ‘non-traditional’ fields. Donya’s accomplishments are very admirable. We’ve come a long way, baby! I hate to admit this, but when I was younger, I had not heard of being an engineer other than being a train engineer. Therefore, I can definitely appreciate the focus on giving back to the community, and exposing young people to the marvelous opportunities open to them in the STEM fields. Black Enterprise, thanks for this story…it is my hope that this story enlightens and encourages young girls everywhere.

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  • Crystal

    I taught pre and elemenatary school for 20 years I always told my students everything that exist in the universe is already inside of them. In the classroom this created sparks and a natural majic that was always present. I shared with my students tools that enabled them to access any information they so desired from within them. At the level of Mental and Spiritual eduction our learning environment was always highly charged with excitment and enthusiasm because the children knew already that the Algebraic Theorem existed in them. So students skills always went throught the roof. I have witnessed Kindegarten students reveal to me without any formal information from me or any outside source the facts of photosynthesis using their languaging to explain. We are the first scientist let us remember our Ancient Legacy. Let’s continue to Innovate.

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  • enjoyed reading your articles excellent stuff keep up the good work

  • Leo Ruiz

    good articles