Native American Profiles in STEM

Dr. Denise Gabaldon-Thronas

Tribe: Ohkay Owingeh/Taos Pueblo
Occupation: Doctor of Naprapathic Medicine

How did you become interested in STEM?

My bachelor's degree is in biochemistry and I was always interested in science and healthcare in particular. I initially went to school for Chemical Engineering but did not feel passionate about the field. I then took an organic chemistry course and knew I needed to switch my major to biochemistry. I worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for over 20 years and worked in the Chemistry Division working on several projects throughout my career.  I have been involved in tutoring, mentoring, science fairs, and conducting chemistry workshops to inspire other Native American Indians to pursue careers in STEM fields.  After I received my bachelors of science, I set a goal of getting a doctorate and realized my dream later by obtaining a Naprapathic Medicine (spinal alignment through connective tissue and nutrition) Doctorate, fueled by wanting to make a difference in people's healthcare. I do not have any regrets about how long it took to come to this moment in my journey. Sometimes the path you are on leads in directions that only strengthen you for a future task.

Who are your mentors?

My mentors were my mother, grandparents, high school chemistry and physics teachers, scientists at LANL.

What words of wisdom would you give to students in robotics?

I think life is full of "opportunities" for growth. If you treat every experience with that in mind, you will become a lifelong learner. Perseverance and patience are key when working in a STEM career.  No one experiences success with their first experiment. It takes practice and learning from your failures and never giving up. Here’s a quote I particularly think about: "Success is not an accident. It is the result of hard work, learning, perseverance, sacrifice, and most of all, by loving what you are doing or just learning to do." - Pele

Anything else you would like to share?

I think it is very important to choose a career in something you are passionate about. It drives you to do your best and you receive such joy and satisfaction by doing what you were meant to do.

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