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February 16, 2023

Angels Consider STEM Careers with Alumna Engineer Nina Sinatra

Nina Sinatra, a 2008 graduate of the Academy of the Holy Angels, recently addressed current Angels about her exciting career as a senior mechanical and materials engineer.


During the February Zoom session, Sinatra explained how an AHA engineering lab sparked her interest in STEM. Students, she recalled, were asked to design an item that could be dropped from a height and remain intact.

“I was captivated,” she said, adding that the project allowed her to blend creativity and technology.


She went on to earn her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia, and a Ph.D. from Harvard.


As she gained exposure to different facets of STEM, Sinatra made her move toward mechanical engineering. She explained that she enjoys making items people find useful.


“Their faces light up when they use (a given item),” she said.



Sinatra discussed how a project team works together, and covered the roles of various team members. She described a team that includes a machinist and engineers who specialize in design, manufacturing, and testing. Sinatra stressed the essential nature of excellent communication as the team works toward its common goal.


She provided of examples of products a team might design, such as a new button on a cell phone, an updated watch design, and acoustics for a home assistant. In each instance, Sinatra explained how the team would consider different aspects of each project, including users’ stories (how and why a person would use each product), whether the products would be accessible and comfortable to use, and how a product might fail.


Teams break down problems and work to resolve various issues, Sinatra added. She underscored the importance of being a good teammate with a positive attitude and an open mind. As a student, Sinatra refreshed her perspective by taking random classes. Concepts from those courses ultimately impacted her engineering work.


When an Angel asked how Sinatra gained acceptance to MIT, the guest speaker smiled, and said she didn’t worry about what everyone else was doing. In fact, Sinatra wrote a humorous essay to convey her background and values. She urged the Angels to push beyond STEM-related activities, and be themselves so their authenticity would be readily apparent.

Another student asked about making the adjustment from the all-girl atmosphere at AHA to a co-ed college.


“(AHA is) a great place to incubate and build confidence,” Sinatra responded. She noted that she navigated the change by bringing the confidence and character she developed at Holy Angels into her college classrooms.


Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.