Jackie Gilchrist

Mechanical Engineering, B.S. (1985)


Hometown: Mandan, ND

Now lives in: St. Louis Park, MN

Career path:

  • 1976 - 1985 Registered Nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital, Fargo, ND
  • 1985 - 1989 Engineer I/II in Nuclear Technical Services at the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant
  • 1989 - 1992 Licensing Engineer in Nuclear Technical Safety & Technical Services Department
  • 1992 - 1993 Environmental Engineer for the Monticello License Renewal Project
  • 1993 - 2015 Principal Business Planning and Support Consultant
  • 2015 - Retired

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

After working as a registered nurse for five years, I decided that I could not continue that as my life’s work. I knew I would have to go back to school but wasn’t sure what to major in this time. My father, who worked in management of large construction projects, encouraged me to look at engineering. 

What was it like being a woman in a male-dominated field?

I didn’t have too much trouble with the guys other then new employees at the plant mistaking me for administration help, which we straightened out right away. I had learned how to handle people as a nurse, which came in handy many times.

What advice would you give to young girls interested in engineering? 

Take all the math and science classes you can in high school. It makes college so much easier. I was of the era that girls didn’t take physics or higher math classes, so I had to take extra classes in college to catch up. 

What is your best memory from NDSU?

The special support I got from the mechanical engineering department staff/instructors to make sure I got my degree. My advisor said he was going to use me as an example. If I could change careers, anyone could do it.

Did your gender give you a different perspective and experience from your male counterparts? 

I don’t know if was my gender, my personality or my nursing background but I was known for being able to get the information needed from other areas of the company. The last position I had involved putting data together for management sometimes very quickly. I feel that my understanding of people helped me to get the cooperation I needed.

What is the biggest misconception about your job?

The biggest misconception about my job and degree is that I can fix items like cars and computers because I am an engineer. So not true.

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