A University of Wisconsin-Madison student from Wausau will be the first nuclear engineer to compete in the Miss America contest Dec. 15. Grace Stanke, who was crowned Miss Wisconsin in June, is using her platform to advocate for nuclear energy while showing women they can succeed in male-dominated industries.

Stanke’s interest in engineering is familial. Her father was a civil engineer and she grew up on construction sites in and around Wausau. In high school, she took dual credit college courses and became interested in nuclear engineering. Stanke told her skeptical dad about her plans to enter the controversial field.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Grace, there’s no future there, there’s no way you should do that,'” Stanke told Wisconsin Public Radio. “And I was a spiteful 16-year-old teenager. I said, ‘Watch me.'”

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