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

NEW 2020 SME PRESIDENT

Susan M. Smyth
Susan M. Smyth

Susan M. Smyth, Ph.D., was elected new SME president for 2020. Dr. Smyth’s accomplishments and leadership role with the organization were recognized at the annual SME Installation and Awards Gala. SME presidents are leaders in manufacturing, contributing their technical expertise and valuable career experiences to help advance the industry. Dr. Smyth has played an integral part in the advancement of manufacturing for much of her career. She’s held various leadership roles with companies and institutions across industries, including quality, strategic business planning, and research and development.

Elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2018, Dr. Smyth was made a SME fellow in 2015. She currently serves on the advisory boards for the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army. Previously, she was chief scientist for global manufacturing at General Motors and the director of GM R&D Manufacturing Systems Research Labs, directing the creation of GM’s global manufacturing R&D strategies.

During her career with GM, Dr. Smyth held a variety of leadership positions in manufacturing, engineering, big data analytics, and research and development. She was the GM executive representative and chair of the Manufacturing Technology Leadership Council at the U.S. Council for Automotive Research. Dr. Smyth served as chair of the U.S. Manufacturing Council, as well as an executive technology advisor to the University of Michigan, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech, Northwestern University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

BOEING COMMERCIAL AIRPLANES CHIEF ENGINEER

Lynne Hopper
Lynne Hopper

Lynne Hopper, vice president of engineering for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, has been named chief engineer for the Commercial Airplanes Division. She replaces John Hamilton, who retired at the end of 2019. Hopper was named vice president of engineering for the division in March 2019 and continues in that role.

As Boeing’s first female chief airplanes engineer, she is responsible for effectiveness and efficiency of the engineering function across Commercial Airplanes and for engineering design, producibility, delegated compliance, safety, and customer support activities for all commercial airplane models. As the Commercial Airplanes engineering leader, Hopper also is accountable for identifying and implementing best practices and ensuring that the right engineering skill sets, processes, and tools are in place for designing, integrating, building, testing, certifying, delivering, and supporting Boeing airplane products.

Hopper also serves as a member of the Boeing enterprise engineering leadership team and oversees export compliance and intellectual property activities in Commercial Airplanes.

Previously, she was vice president of Boeing Test and Evaluation, where she was responsible for laboratory and flight test operations in support of validation and certification of Boeing commercial and defense products. Named to that position in 2018, Hopper oversaw some 5,000 engineers, pilots, mechanics, and technicians, who test and evaluate new Boeing aircraft, modifications, and upgrades to existing aircraft and provide test support to Boeing businesses.

GUIDING POLICIES INDUSTRIES OF THE FUTURE

Lynne Parker
Lynne Parker

Lynne Parker, Ph.D., professor, The University of Tennessee, is one of two people named deputy U.S. chief technology officer. The position is within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where Dr. Parker has served as assistant director for artificial intelligence (AI) since August 2018.

In this new role, she will help guide policies and efforts related to the industries of the future, which include quantum information science, advanced communications, advanced manufacturing, and the bio-economy, in addition to continuing a strong focus on AI. While serving in her government roles, Dr. Parker has maintained her connection to The University of Tennessee, where she has served on the faculty for 17 years, including as interim dean of the Tickle College of Engineering.

At OSTP, Dr. Parker’s notable accomplishments include leading the American Artificial Intelligence Initiative — established by a presidential executive order in February 2019 — and the Select Committee on AI, which coordinates and leads AI activities across federal agencies.

Dr. Parker has led the White House’s work in promoting the nation’s leadership in AI, including coordinating and prioritizing AI research and development, addressing barriers to the innovative adoption of AI, and building up a skilled workforce for AI.

SCIENTIFIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND EXTENSIVE OUTREACH

J’Tia Hart
J’Tia Hart
CREDIT: Argonne National Laboratory

J’Tia Hart, Ph.D., a nuclear engineer working in nonproliferation at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, has been honored through Crain’s Chicago Business 40 Under 40, an annual list of young leaders in a variety of fields. Dr. Hart was selected both for her scientific accomplishments and for her extensive outreach. In September, she was also named an IF/THEN ambassador by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, working to inspire talented young women to pursue careers in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.

She serves as a program lead in the Strategic Security Sciences Division at Argonne, directing analysis covering nuclear energy and safety, energy security, and cybersecurity to inform government policies. Before rejoining Argonne, Dr. Hart served as an executive briefer to the Secretary of Energy in the Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence and also led analysis on nuclear proliferation, foreign nuclear energy programs, and nuclear fuel cycle issues.

Dr. Hart has long been committed to using her leadership skills and sharing her experiences in outreach to encourage the next generation. She serves as co-chair of the Argonne/ACT-SO High School Research Program, an in-depth research, mentoring, and enrichment program highlighting the talents of African American high school students. She has also been recognized nationally for her outstanding leadership and technical accomplishments by the past two presidential administrations as a White House Fellowship finalist, and with the Department of Energy Exceptional Service Award and the Secretary of Energy’s Appreciation Award.

DEVELOPING DEVICES TO IDENTIFY AND TREAT THE BRAIN

Tara Alvarez
Tara Alvarez

Tara Alvarez, Ph.D., professor, biomedical engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, who studies the links between visual disorders and the brain and develops novel devices to identify and treat them, was named a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. Dr. Alvarez joined approximately 300 fellows, who are leading scientists and clinicians in the field, at the academy’s 2019 annual meeting. At the conference, she gave a talk on the neural mechanisms underlying a vision therapy that helps patients with a disorder known as convergence insufficiency (CI) to read and focus clearly on close objects. That research was recognized by the academy as among the “10 most newsworthy of 2019.” 

Her research, funded by the National Eye Institute and conducted in collaboration with Mitchell Scheiman, O.D., Ph.D., at Salus University, Pennsylvania College of Optometry, began with a study on mechanisms that may cause CI, in which the muscles that control eye movements do not coordinate to focus on near objects. CI is one of the primary symptoms of concussion, in which about half of the civilian and military populations with post-concussive syndrome experience it for varying lengths of time.

Her diagnostic machine uses data from a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) imaging machine, as well as from functional imaging. Strapped to the head, the fNIRS machine uses light beams to measure blood oxygen levels — indicators of neural activity — in various regions of the brain. An ocular device Dr. Alvarez has created, known as a vision and neural assessment equipment system, measures eye movements and accommodation — the ability to see images clearly, which are promising biomarkers for neurological functions such as visual attention and memory. Long term, her team’s diagnostic and therapeutic platform will leverage commercially available virtual reality equipment and a video-based eye-tracking system with proprietary software to detect how changes in eye movement behavior following an injury, including a mild concussion, correspond to brain activity.

SATELLITE MISSION CONCEPT STUDY

Lara Waldrop
Lara Waldrop

Lara Waldrop, Ph.D., assistant professor, electrical and computer engineering, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was selected by NASA to lead a multi-institution team to conduct a concept study for a satellite mission. Her mission, titled “Global Lyman-alpha Imagers of the Dynamic Exosphere” (GLIDE), is one of two finalists chosen for consideration after a competitive selection process. One mission will be selected for launch as a NASA Heliophysics Science Mission of Opportunity, with the total mission cost capped at $75 million.

The GLIDE spacecraft’s observations of the vast cloud of hydrogen atoms surrounding Earth will reveal the structure and dynamic behavior of this region in response to influences from the sun above or the atmosphere below. The GLIDE mission would make unprecedented measurements of the far ultraviolet light emitted by hydrogen atoms in the Earth’s outermost atmospheric layer, known as the exosphere, which extends almost halfway to the moon. This bright emission serves as a tracer of exospheric density and spatial structure, knowledge of which is needed to advance understanding of upper atmospheric physics, particularly regarding Earth’s recovery from solar-driven disturbances known as space weather. GLIDE data will also help explain how exospheric hydrogen atoms are able to overcome Earth’s gravity and escape into space, a process that leads to the slow evaporation of a planet’s water reservoirs.

WOMEN IN MATHEMATICS FELLOW

Petra Bonfert-Taylor
Petra Bonfert-Taylor
CREDIT: Kathryn Lapierre/Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth

Dartmouth professor of engineering Petra Bonfert-Taylor, Ph.D., was selected as a member of the 2020 class of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) fellows. She was selected for her work as a U.S. liaison and in web creation and management for the International Mathematical Union (IMU)’s Committee on Women in Mathematics; for development and study of programs building inclusivity in STEM; and for becoming an example of broadening research interests, by adding research in medical imaging to work for complex analysis.

For more than two decades, Dr. Bonfert-Taylor has developed programs and tools to make engineering and math accessible, particularly for students who want to pursue STEM degrees but whose early years didn’t give them the academic foundations, encouragement, or role models to help them succeed.

The AWM fellows program was established to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to the support and advancement of women in the mathematical sciences. The program aligns with AWM’s mission of encouraging women and girls to study and to have active careers in the mathematical sciences and to promote equal opportunity and the equal treatment of women and girls in the mathematical sciences.

ADVANCING NATIONAL SECURITY SCIENCE

Kim Budil
Kim Budil

Kim Budil, Ph.D., principal associate director for Weapons and Complex Integration at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has made a career of advancing national security science and strengthening the partnership between the national laboratory and University of California systems. In recognition of outstanding achievements in both academia and public service, Dr. Budil was honored by her alma mater with the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal from the UC Davis College of Engineering.

The award is the highest recognition presented by the College of Engineering to alumni and is given each year in recognition of graduates whose professional and personal achievements bring special honor to the college.

During her career with the laboratory, Dr. Budil has had roles of increasing management responsibility, including Weapons and Complex Integration, Global Security, the National Ignition Facility, and Physical and Life Sciences. Last January, she began a leadership role in the laboratory’s nuclear weapons program in its responsibilities to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent and to support the transformation of the stockpile and the nuclear weapons enterprise for the future. She also is responsible for stewardship of the broad range of science, technology, and engineering capabilities and infrastructure that underpin the Stockpile Stewardship Program and lay the foundations for the long-term health and vitality of the laboratory.

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