Women Making News

From breaking the glass ceiling in industry, academia, and research to an array of accomplishments, these women are making news.
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New Dean of Thayer School of Engineering

Alexis AbramsonAlexis Abramson, Ph.D., a mechanical engineer and a leader in sustainable en­ergy technology, has been named dean of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. She will begin work June 17.

Currently the Milton and Tamar Maltz Professor of Energy Innovation at Case Western Reserve University and co-director of the university’s Great Lakes Energy Institute, Dr. Abramson will be the second woman to serve as Thayer’s dean. The first, Elsa Garmire, Ph.D., the Sydney E. Junkins 1887 Professor of Engineering Emerita, led the engineer­ing school from 1995 to 1997.

Provost Joseph Helble, Ph.D., who served as dean of Thayer for nearly 13 years before being appointed provost in 2018, calls the selection “an inspired choice.” He said Dr. Abramson brings a commitment to equity and inclusivity that will help the school continue to draw women and other underrepresented students to engineering. In 2016, during Dr. Helble’s term as dean, Thayer became the first comprehensive research institution to award more bachelor’s degrees in engineering to women than to men. Since then, about 40 percent of graduating engineering majors have been women — twice the national average.

Dr. Abramson has been a member of the faculty at Case since 2003. Her primary research centers on developing techniques for thermal characteriza­tion of nanostructures, the design and synthesis of unique nanomaterials for use in alternative energy applications, and virtual energy audits for building energy efficiency. She served as interim chair of the department of electrical engineering and computer science from 2017 to 2018.

Since 2013, she has been director and then co-director of the university’s Great Lakes Energy Institute. She serves as technical advisor for Break­through Energy Ventures, the $1 billion energy innovation fund launched by Bill Gates to combat human-driven climate change. During the Obama administration, Dr. Abramson was chief scientist and manager of the emerging technologies team at the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office, which invests in the research, development, and commercialization of energy-efficient and cost-effective building technologies.

A graduate of Tufts University, where she majored in mechanical engineering, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Dr. Abramson received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Pioneering the Development of Directed Protein Evolution

Frances H. ArnoldFrances H. Arnold, Ph.D., Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineer­ing, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the Califor­nia Institute of Technology (Caltech), and director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center, is the recipient of the 2019 Bower Award for Achievement in Sci­ence. The Bower Award is among the prestigious Franklin Institute Awards, which have honored exceptional innovators in science and technology since 1824. Dr. Arnold was honored for “pioneering the development of directed protein evolution,” a monumental step forward in the science of protein engineering that revolutionized the use of biologi­cal catalysts for research and industry.

Elise Cutts wrote in Caltech News, Feb. 12, 2019, “We rely on the modern chemical industry to bring us everything from prescription drugs to paper, but making these products often involves toxic chemi­cals and costly, energy-hungry processes. While enzymes — biological catalysts made of protein — have long been proposed as a potential green solution for chemical manufacturing, engineering useful enzymes has proved immensely difficult. In the early 1990s, Dr. Arnold … found a solution in a method known as directed evolution that she developed for creating new and useful versions of enzymes. Her research revolutionized enzyme design, and in 2018 she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.”

Dr. Arnold hopes that as directed-evolution technologies grow and advance, they will increas­ingly supplant more traditional chemical processes, and that the day will come when much of chemical manufacturing will be performed not by humans but by bacteria with engineered enzymes.

Woman Engineer of the Year

Lauren BotelerLauren Boteler, Ph.D., an engineer with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), was named Woman Engineer of the Year in September by the Ameri­can Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Electronics Packaging and Photonics Division.

A thermal/packaging engineer from the labora­tory’s Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate, Dr. Boteler was honored at the 2018 International Technical Conference and Exhibition on Packag­ing and Integration of Electronic and Photonic Microsystems Conference. The award recognizes outstanding accomplishments and service to the field of electronics and photonics packaging and is one of only four achievement awards given by the division each year with candidates considered internationally.

Dr. Boteler leads the thermal and packaging research programs as part of the Advanced Power Packaging Group at ARL. Her work has focused on integrating electronics packaging and thermal management solutions for a wide range of Army applications. She designs thermal and packaging solutions, including 3D chip stacking, power electronics, radio frequency high-electron-mobility transistor devices, top side cooling, phase change materials, additive manufacturing, and micro­electro-mechanical systems. More recently, she has initiated a research program in advanced power electronics packaging and thermal management, which focuses on enabling electrical, thermal, and mechanical co-design of electronics modules through modeling tools and multifunctional components.

She also encourages women and young girls who are just entering the field to continue to make an impact. “My primary piece of advice is to ‘stick with it,’” Dr. Boteler said. “Pursuing a STEM education is not a typical path for young women. Research has shown that diverse workforces are correlated with innovative workforces, so women in technical fields add significantly to an organization’s innovation potential. Young women are just as capable as men at math and science, so they need to ‘stick with it’ and find opportunities that advance their STEM skills and enable success such as internships, sum­mer camps, role models, etc.”

Celebrating Ingenuity and Achievement

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronau­tics (AIAA) celebrates its members’ ingenuity and achievements to inspire and advance the future of aerospace. From the impor­tant missions that reinvent its national uses of air and space, to the innovative new applications that enhance everyday living, AIAA recognizes individuals and institutions that are making the world safer, more connected, and more prosperous.

The AIAA announced the 2019 recipients of its most prestigious awards, the institute’s newly elected fellows, and honorary fellows. The two female recipients are:

Pamela A. MelroyPamela A. Melroy, CEO, Melroy & Hollett Tech­nology Partners, and director of space technology and policy, Nova Systems, received the AIAA Public Service Award, honoring a person outside the aerospace community who has shown consistent and visible support for national aviation and space goals. She received the award “for excellence in public service to the aerospace community in the United States and world through military and civilian service, spaceflight, engineering, and research excellence.” Melroy is a former NASA space shuttle commander and served 10 years in the United States Air Force as test pilot, instructor, and aircraft commander. She took part in three space shuttle missions and held commander duties aboard the spacecraft.

Katya M. CasperKatya M. Casper, Ph.D., principal member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, re­ceived the AIAA Lawrence Sperry Award. The award is presented for a notable contribution made by a young person, age 35 or
under, to the advancement of aeronautics or astronautics. She received the award for her “highly significant contributions to the fundamental understanding of boundary layer transition and fluid-structure interactions in hypersonic flows through novel diagnostics with national program impact.” According to an article in the February 2019 AIAA Journal, Dr. Casper is involved in research of volumetric velocimetry of complex geometry effects on transonic flow over cavities.

“Through their dedication and hard work, these winners have expanded the boundaries of aero­space,” said AIAA President John Langford, Ph.D. “They lift the entire industry simply by doing their best. It is with great admiration that we congratu­late them on a job well done.”

Golden Gate Chief Engineer

Ewa Z. Bauer-FurbushEwa Z. Bauer-Furbush, P.E., chief engineer, Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, was honored by the American Society of Civil Engi­neers (ASCE) as the 2019 Outstanding Projects And Leaders (OPAL) award recipient in management. The award honors outstanding civil engineering leaders for their lifetime accomplishments.

According to ASCE News, Bauer-Furbush has devoted her past 20 years to the improvement of the Golden Gate Bridge. A global icon, the bridge opened in 1937 without the benefit of modern technol­ogy. Bauer-Furbush’s innovative and meticulous approach to improving the bridge is evident throughout the many construction upgrades during her tenure. She has implemented the first three phases of the bridge’s seismic retrofit, built the world’s longest bridge movable median barrier, and is currently overseeing the installation of the physical suicide deterrent and wind retrofit on the suspension bridge. Additionally, Bauer-Furbush manages the other engineering projects for the district’s bus facilities and ferry terminals. The design of the final phase of the Golden Gate Bridge retrofit, the retrofit of the iconic suspension bridge, is being finalized under Bauer-Furbush’s watchful eye and high standards.

From her days as a bridge design engineer with private engineering firms and senior transporta­tion engineer with the California Department of Transportation, Bauer-Furbush has demonstrated an exceptional ability to form partnerships. For this, she frequently credits mentorships during her initial days in the United States. In 1997, she began hosting students from engineering programs, and then faculty, and her presentations always inspire and challenge.

A Top Influential Woman

Pamela WhittenKennesaw State University (KSU) President Pamela Whitten, Ph.D., was named to Engineering Georgia magazine’s Top 100 Influ­ential Women in Georgia list, recognizing her role in empowering other female professionals in the indus­try across the state.

Dr. Whitten, who was named Kennesaw State’s fifth president in June 2018, was selected by a panel of industry leaders and Engineering Georgia editorial board members. The list “celebrates the diversity of female leaders, policy makers and visionaries who have spent their careers changing Georgia’s landscape for the better,” according to the publication.

As president, Dr. Whitten leads Georgia’s largest R2 doctoral research institution, a designation that puts KSU among the top 6 percent of colleges and universities nationwide that are classified as either R1 or R2. The university is home to 13 colleges. KSU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the nation’s top undergraduate engineer­ing programs and online graduate engineering programs. According to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, KSU is among the top pro­ducers of Georgia’s engineers with 73 percent of its graduates landing in engineering jobs within the state one year after graduation.

In addition to her leadership positions in Georgia, Dr. Whitten served as dean of the Col­lege of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University. She is an internationally recognized expert in the field of telemedicine — the remote delivery of health care services and information — and has conducted research with funding from multiple state and federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Named AIMBE Fellow

Jin Kim Mont­clareThe American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has inducted Jin Kim Mont­clare, Ph.D., a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, to its College of Fellows.

Election as an AIMBE fellow is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer. The College of Fellows comprises the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers. College membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering and medical research, practice, or education and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering, or developing/implement­ing innovative approaches to bioengineering education.” Among current AIMBE fellows are two Nobel Prize laureates and nearly 20 recipients of the National Medal of Science or the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

In addition to her role as NYU Tandon profes­sor and head of the Montclare Lab for Protein Engineering and Design, Dr. Montclare serves as the director of the school’s Convergence of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute and associate director for technology advancement at NYU’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. She was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for her “outstanding contributions to biomaterials and biocatalyst design via synthetic biology and protein engineering.”

Well known for her development of protein-lipid macromolecule systems that can deliver genes, nanoparticles, and drugs for the potential treat­ment of multidrug-resistant cancer cells, diabetes, and other conditions requiring a variety of thera­peutic approaches, Dr. Montclare recently garnered attention for her design of nanoscale protein mi­celles capable of both delivering chemotherapeutic drugs and of being tracked by magnetic resonance imaging, thereby noninvasively monitoring thera­peutic progress and reducing the need for surgical intervention.

A formal induction ceremony was held during the AIMBE annual meeting at the National Acad­emy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., in March.

Three Exceptional Young Women Engineers

Women Making NewsThree young female engineers were celebrated as examples for the next generation at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards. The event celebrated women in engineering and aimed to change the male-dominated image of the sector, in which only about 10 percent of engineers in the U.K. are female. The winners will play an ambas­sadorial role promoting engineering careers to girls and young people.

Sophie Harker was named the Young Woman Engineer of the Year. An aerodynamics and performance engineer for BAE Systems’ concepts and technology team within the air sector, she performs aerodynamic and performance analysis on future aircraft concepts and leads on joint hypersonic and space concept work with Reaction Engines Limited. An active STEM ambassador, Harker is currently setting up a nonprofit to enable schools and institutions to video call engineers and scientists. Her aim is to make sure that no child misses the opportunity of a STEM career because of their geographical location.

Shajida Akthar, a software engineer with Ac­centure, received the Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices. Starting out as an apprentice, her roles varied, from managing an entire project de­livery to doing DevOps, test automation, and even development. She took on increasing responsibility, at one point managing the DevOps stream of work on a project, while also covering scrum activities as an acting scrum master. Outside of work, Akthar has worked with organizations such as Pathway CTM and TeachFirst to share her experiences as an apprentice. She’s encouraged many young people, particularly young women, to consider careers in technology.

Lorna Bennet, a mechanical engineer for the operational performance team at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, received the Women’s Engineering Society Prize. She works to improve the operations and maintenance of offshore renewable energy assets. This involves liaising with academic researchers, SMEs, technology develop­ers, manufacturers, and operators to develop new technologies, procedures, and research. As a STEM ambassador since 2010, Bennet has dedicated a significant amount of time to STEM engagement programs, so that others do not miss out on the opportunities offered by engineering.

“It’s vital we inspire the next generation of engineers, especially women, and one way of doing this is highlighting current talent in the industry,” said Harker. “These awards are literally putting role models out there to change the perception of engineering and encourage young people to consider STEM careers. I’m looking forward to the year ahead and hope to inspire as many people as possible.”

Joint Role as CEO and President

M. Gayle PackerM. Gayle Packer, J.D., has recently been named chief executive officer and president of Terracon Con­sultants Inc., following her appointment as president in June 2018. An employee-owned engineering consulting firm with more than 4,500 employees, Terracon ranks 24th in Engineering News-Record’s list of the top 500 design firms. With the firm since 2004, Packer has taken on increasingly responsible roles that include serving as a member of the executive committee since 2007, and on the board of directors since 2011.

She succeeds current Terracon chair, David Gaboury, P.E., who served in both capacities for 16 years. Of her appointment, Gaboury said: “Gayle’s track record of success at Terracon makes her uniquely qualified to lead the firm going forward. She is well aligned with our history, values, and long-term prosperous growth strategies, which will provide continuity, and she will bring her perspec­tive and fresh approach to our continued success.”

Packer holds several degrees, including juris doctorate; M.S. in agricultural law; M.S. in agricultural economics and applied business management; and B.S. in political science and international studies.