Nikki Merrill – Girlstart

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WOMEN IN STEM – Nikki Merrill

Project Engineer @ Williams

Nikki Merrill’s life changed after applying to one engineering scholarship in high school. Since then, her love for Civil Engineering led her to become an esteemed project engineer for Williams. We are so honored that she has chosen to speak with us today about her career and the ways in which she uses her skills of solving complex problems in the natural gas pipeline business!

What sparked your interest and made you want to volunteer with Girlstart?

I think it is a great program that introduces STEM in a fun way at the formative years which is so crucial and beneficial.

What is your favorite Girlstart memory?

I really loved when we asked the girls to shout out some female role models and they were naming Mae Jemison, Maya Angelou, and Miley Cyrus! I thought it was so cool that young girls knew Mae Jemison!

What would you like to tell girls who are interested in pursuing a STEM career? What words of encouragement would you share with them?

Just do it like Nike says. I truly believe you are the author of your life and you can do anything if you want it bad enough.

Was there a specific person, program, or event in your life that led you to your STEM career?

My high school biology teacher. He encouraged me to fill out an engineering scholarship application for Texas A&M. At that point, I was planning on going to community college or the U.S. Navy because I did not have any money for college and my parents were not in a situation where they could help monetarily. I ended up being awarded the scholarship and it allowed me to attend Texas A&M where I majored in Civil Engineering.

Tell us about your STEM field?

I work in the natural gas pipeline business where we build out the infrastructure to transport natural gas. It is critical infrastructure needed to provide energy to businesses, manufacturing, and homes. We build pipelines and compressor facilities to compress natural gas all over the USA.

What are your favorite things about your career/field?

I really enjoy solving complex problems. Each project is trying to achieve the same result but there are always new and interesting challenges in each project. I enjoy working on a team with other engineers and non-engineers to solve problems and drive these projects to completion. It is really rewarding to be a part of our energy industry.

What projects/programs you have worked on?

I have worked on many projects where we build pipelines to transport natural gas to business, refineries, and homes. I have also worked on building compressor stations where we use natural gas-powered turbines to compress natural gas on the pipeline and send it along.

Why is confidence in STEM important for girls?

Girls need to cultivate a positive inner talk track and they need to protect that and maintain it for the rest of their lives. A positive mindset will lead to confidence and that is so crucial because you need confidence to take risks and do things that seem scary at first.

This blog was written by Caroline Onwuzu. During the spring 2022 semester when she was a senior at The University of Texas Austin majoring in Human Development and Family Science, Caroline served as a Volunteer & Community Relations Intern at Girlstart. In this role, she helped volunteers connect in meaningful ways to Girlstart. At UT, she was also the president of the African Student Organization.

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