Grad's Work Promoted through TED Talk

Published on March 07, 2018

While a sociology student in the 1990s at EKU, Sonya Begay composed a senior paper in Dr. Stephanie McSpirit’s class on uranium concentration on the Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona and later presented her work at a Kentucky Academy of Science Conference.

Little did she know then that her work would become a lifelong obsession and eventually become the subject of a just-released TED Talk, the well-known lecture series. Her presentation was recorded at Penn State University on Feb. 11 of this year.

Begay, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from EKU in 1998, serves today in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the management and program analyst for the Administration for Native Americans.  A member of the Navajo Nation (Diné), Begay has been speaking out about the severe health consequences that have plagued her nation since the Manhattan Project, which developed the nuclear weapons that ended World War II.

Begay’s TED Talk, titled “Shimá Siní – Why Are You So Sick?,” can be viewed at An additional one-on-one conversation with Begay, also at Penn State and televised on public television, can be seen at