Our cover story, “Women Push the Envelope in Virtual Reality,” speaks to the underlying theme of this entire issue, which is that of women moving beyond the limits of established norms to achieve breakthroughs. In the field of virtual reality, for example, conventional wisdom tells us that women did not play any significant role in the early days of what was considered an emergent technology. This, however, is not the case. As writer Jon Reisfeld observes in his introduction, “While we can’t correct 30 years of media neglect and indifference in a single story, we’d like to make a start.” He profiles three women — a journalist, an industrialist, and a futurist researcher — whose fascinating work in VR continues to make significant contributions, changing the way we experience and perceive the world and conduct business.
Uncovering the identity of the notorious accused Golden State Killer has brought forensic genealogy to the forefront. A serial murderer, rapist, and burglar, the Golden State Killer’s crime spree took place in California from the mid-’70s to mid-’80s. Recent developments in DNA testing, the popularity of consumer DNA testing kits, and sharing those results publicly over various websites all played a role in discovering suspect Joseph DeAngelo’s identity.
Barbara Rae-Venter, Ph.D., J.D., interviewed in our two-part series, “We Are Data” and “The Finders: Cracking Cold Cases with Genealogy, Forensics, and DNA,” identified the suspected Golden State Killer. She and the other women experts we interviewed combine science and technology with the study of family relationships in ongoing investigations. There is more hope, they point out, that decades-old cases can be solved through a combination of increasingly sophisticated technologies, collaborations across varied disciplines, and new ways of thinking about and following data.
In the less visible but highly important area of accident reconstruction, women engineers and their male colleagues apply their skills to make a scientific analysis of accident data, formulating it into reports that will be used in court testimony. Our feature “Engineering Solves the Puzzle” highlights this growing field for engineers. With rigorous documentation, testing, modeling, and simulation, accidents including all types of vehicles and pedestrians can be investigated and understood.
Lastly, this issue includes a recap of WE18, the Society’s annual conference, which took place last fall in Minneapolis. In addition to the many professional development and technical sessions, networking events, and opportunities, SWE celebrated and recognized the contributions and achievements of women engineers. From the Achievement Award (SWE’s highest honor), through the robust awards and recognitions program to the various collegiate competitions, it became clear, once again, that many women are moving beyond established norms, achieving breakthroughs, and making the world a better place.
Director of Editorial & Publications