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First-Year ASU Student Helps Close Engineering Gender Gap 

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Claire Gunderson is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, and the Jemez and Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico. (Charlie Leight/ASU News)
Claire Gunderson is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, and the Jemez and Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico. (Charlie Leight/ASU News)

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 Alex Gonzalez, Producer

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Wednesday, August 30, 2023   

The percentage of female engineers varies by specialty, but 2021 figures show only 9% of mechanical engineers are women. One Arizona State University student is working to change it.

Claire Gunderson just started her first year at the university studying mechanical engineering. She said her passion for the field started by helping her dad with his cars in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. And while she is disappointed to see a lack of diversity in the field, Gunderson emphasized she is optimistic about the future.

“I guess it is a little sad that more women aren’t involved in engineering,” Gunderson acknowledged. “It just inspires me to pursue what I want to do and make connections with everybody around me, no matter if they’re male or female or whatever.”

Arizona State University awarded bachelor degrees in engineering to 460 women in 2021. Gunderson is also a National Indigenous Recognition Scholar. She graduated from high school with top academic standing. Only 8% of ACT-tested American Indian and Alaska Native high school graduates meet college readiness and STEM benchmarks, according to the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

During her time at the university, Gunderson noted she hopes to become a member of the Formula SAE Club, which each year sets out to build a formula-style race car to compete at an annual Formula Student competition in Michigan. She added she’s eager to see the process of building a prototype. For anyone considering the engineering field, Gunderson recommended taking time to explore your options and find the best fit.

“If you are really into figuring stuff out and all that, that would be something in engineering that you’ll be able to find,” Gunderson explained. “Whether it’s, like, mechanical, electrical, aerospace, anything like that. I just think it’s really fun.”

Gunderson and more than 144,000 other Sun Devils have begun their degree programs this fall at Arizona State University campuses or online, the largest student enrollment in the university’s history.