NASA Aerospace Engineer Dr. Anita Sengupta joins ANSEP Celebration, encourages students to dare mighty things


ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) held its 21st annual Celebration yesterday. In 1995, Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder, Ph.D., founded ANSEP as a scholarship program for a single student. Today, there are more than 1,500 middle school, high school, university students and alumni who benefit from the program. Notable NASA Aerospace Engineer Dr. Anita Sengupta joined students, alumni, family and ANSEP partners for the occasion. 

Among her many notable accomplishments, Sengupta was the lead systems engineer for the supersonic parachute that safely delivered the Mars rover Curiosity to the planet’s surface on Aug. 6, 2012. The car-sized robotic rover is currently exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, with the goal of determining whether the planet could ever support life.

Sengupta kicked off this year’s Celebration by speaking with ANSEP students on Friday. With the message of determination and opportunity told through her extraordinary experiences as a NASA aerospace engineer, Sengupta motivated ANSEP students to dare mighty things and continue working hard to reach their educational and professional goals.

“The most important thing we must do in our lives is find something we’re passionate about and go after it,” said Sengupta. “You are the future of our world – the future scientists, engineers, astronauts – it’s up to you to find out what your purpose is and make it happen. Don’t stop until you’ve reached your dreams.”

“Our goal is to inspire our students to achieve their potential, and hearing from successful STEM professionals like Dr. Sengupta reinforces that and reminds them that the sky is the limit,” said ANSEP Founder and Vice Provost Dr. Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder. “We’re proud of the progress ANSEP has made in improving hiring patterns for Alaska Natives in STEM careers over the past 21 years, and we will continue to do this important work and reach more deserving, capable youth with the support of our valued partners.”

In Alaska, only six percent of workers in computer, engineering and science occupations are indigenous Americans. ANSEP is working to close this gap by producing scientists and engineers who can provide valuable leadership and a connection to local communities, from which STEM employers in Alaska can directly benefit.

ANSEP engages students at a critical time in their academic careers, identifying potential participants early, promoting an attitude of readiness, preparing students for the challenges ahead and giving them the tools and support they need to succeed. Beginning with students in middle school, ANSEP’s longitudinal model continues through high school into undergraduate degree programs and even through graduate school to the doctorate level.

Since 2010, more than 75 percent of ANSEP students who have begun a University of Alaska undergraduate program in a STEM field are still enrolled and on track to earn their degree or have graduated. By year 2020, more than 3,000 ANSEP students will be on track for science and engineering degrees. To learn more about ANSEP and its components, visit www.ANSEP.net.