Keep your options open, make as many connections as you can, and put your best foot forward in the classroom.

That’s the advice civil engineering alum Ted Johnson '87 gave Lehigh students attending a presentation on his experience as a black engineer. The September 24 virtual seminar was sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers' Lehigh Chapter and organized by Michael Osei '21.

Johnson, who later earned his masters and doctorate at the University of Virginia, now works at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. 

He currently serves as the director of the Structural Mechanics and Concepts Branch, supervising the analysis of aerospace materials and structures and ensuring their fitness for space travel. 

After joining NASA in 1993, Johnson climbed the ranks until his most recent promotion in 2014.

Johnson said that black engineers face a distinct challenge in the workplace, where racism and bias still prevail.

"You can't let it bother you," he said. "You can't change other peoples' minds, but if you can do good work, you will move forward."

—Will Newbegin ’21 is a student writer for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Ted Johnson/ "LRC-2019-B701_P-04216.tif" (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by NASA JSC Office of STEM Engagement

Civil engineering alum Ted Johnson '87 directs the Structural Mechanics and Concepts Branch at NASA's Langley Research Center. (Credit: "LRC-2019-B701_P-04216.tif" (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by NASA JSC Office of STEM Engagement)