Boilermaker Miri Niedrauer didn’t grow up with access to any kind of education, so she made her own.
As one of nine children, her childhood was made up mostly of working on her family’s goat dairy farm in rural east Texas and caring for her younger siblings. Occupational aspirations, dreams of having a career — certainly one in science — weren’t common for women in her environment.
“This life led to a rather difficult childhood,” she says. “We weren’t interacting with anyone outside the immediate family. So typical childhood things didn’t really happen in my family.”
It was when Niedrauer read Marie Curie’s biography, around age 9 or 10, she estimates, that her mind was opened to a whole new world — one in which a woman could flourish as a chemist, a physicist and ultimately a Nobel Prize winner. From then on, she was compelled to rise above what was expected of women within her type of upbringing.
Filled with her dream of becoming a chemist, she left home at 15 years old to enroll in a community college. That was the first time in her life she ever set foot in a classroom. Eventually, her need for help with tuition led her to enlist in the Army National Guard at the age of 17.
In the years that followed, Niedrauer would go on to become a competitive athlete, enroll at Purdue University, concurrently earn her MBA through Purdue Global, and work on a collaboration with another campus group to develop a new technology awaiting a result from the U.S. Patent Office.
“Many of the areas I’ve experienced in life tend to be male-dominated fields,” Niedrauer says. “I hope by proving that women can do all those things, it inspires young girls like myself in the future who have been told that women are inferior — that that’s not true. They can do whatever they want to do.”