STEM Professional of the week

Mercedes Hughes      
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Over the course of a decade, Mercedes M. Hughes has made immediate and clear impacts as an engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District in the Engineering Division.

Born to humble beginnings in Lima, Peru, Mercedes, along with her two brothers were witness to her parents’ struggle to provide the basic necessities for their family, such as food and clothing. With no formal education to speak of and a lack of understanding for the education process, the emphasis on schooling was never as strong as the need for the family to work and help support the household . But their long and constant struggle served as motivation for Mercedes to make a better life and future for herself, which meant getting an education. After graduating from high school, Mercedes worked hard to help provide for her family. She worked as a waitress in her home town and with the money she earned began to take English lessons.

These lessons were important for Mercedes since her dream was to someday live in the United States. Through her job, she met foreign professionals, who encouraged her to explore life in another country with greater opportunities. At the age of 23, with a new lease on life, Mercedes decided to immigrate to Germany in search of those opportunities. Despite not knowing the language, she found work and shortly thereafter met her future husband, a U.S. Air Force STEM professional. A year after meeting they would return to Peru to be married. In 1994, Mercedes’ dream of life in the U.S. came true and with the support of her husband, Mercedes enrolled in the University of Louisville’s engineering program and further expanded on her goal for a better life.

Today, after many years of hard work, Mercedes has accomplished much of what she set out to do and is currently a Registered Structural Engineer in the Structural Section, Design Branch for the Army Corps’ Louisville District.

With a responsibility for the design of structural engineering features of work relating to civil and military projects, Mercedes’ most notable military work has come by way of her participation in the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, in Wisconsin, for which her project team was awarded the 2011 Engineering Excellence Award. She was one of three Lead Engineers in charge of a total of 23 buildings as well as monitoring and reviewing performance and progress schedules to ensure budget compliance.

Mercedes’ enthusiasm and desire to share her journey has motivated her to get involved with the Louisville District STEM ED, a partnership between the Department of Defense and the Corps, which weaves the principles of science, technology, engineering and mathematics into the standardized curriculum in an effort to advance STEM education.

Mercedes holds a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering, a master’s degree in structural engineering, and a master’s in business administration from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. She is a also a Registered Professional Engineer and a proud Mom. Mercedes was honored in October with a Military Hero award by Great Minds in STEM.

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