In celebration of Women's History Month, we asked the women of Texas ECE to tell us about the women who inspired, mentored, or supported them in their lives and careers.
Prof. Suzanne Barber
"I did not personally know any professional female scientists or engineers until I went to graduate school so my early mentors and supporters came from my home and my hometown. Two immediately come to mind — my mom who was awarded a scholarship to college but was not allowed to enroll because “girls don’t need to go to college” and my high school basketball coach (yes, you may not believe it now but I was quite the athlete in high school) who taught me many important lessons about leadership and team building. My mom, Kathleen Barber, and my coach, Gayle Sessions, were tenacious and accomplished women in their own right and taught me life-long lessons about independent thinking, loyalty to others. hard work, and dedication through both their words and deeds. In graduate school, Dr. Karan Harbison served as a true example about how to think out-of-the-box and to pursue research that inspires you. These women taught me to pay more attention to my opportunities than my obstacles and believe more in my own voice than the voice of others. For this, I will be forever grateful and indebted to them."
Prof. Jean Anne Incorvia
"When thinking through this question, I feel grateful for the network of women professors who have my back and, despite how busy they are, they make themselves available if I need them. For example, I was feeling overwhelmed with the number of travel requests I was getting. I pinged Prof. Debby Sensky at Stanford, and she was happy to chat with me about how she handles similar situations. We hadn't spoken in a year before that! When I was feeling like I was doing too much service, I discussed it with my collaborator Prof. Katie Schuman at Univ. of Tennessee and we were happy to vet each others' service requests to make sure it is staying within reason. When I had an issue with student interaction with my course, I got great feedback from Prof. Christine Julien as well as Prof. Diana Marculescu in our department. I am very grateful to all of them and many more who form a strong network."
Prof. Christine Julien
"In elementary school, I had a teacher in an enrichment program named Ms. Early. I attended her class all day once a week, for five years. She encouraged me (and my classmates) to seek out interesting questions and answer them. I didn't know it at the time, but she was inspiring exactly the types of attitudes and skills that would one day be essential for a research career -- curiosity, comfort with the unknown, and the ability to learn from "failure", just to name a few. At the time, I wouldn't have said that I wanted to be a professor or researcher when I grew up, but upon reflection, one's elementary and middle school years are formative ones in enabling future career trajectories."
Prof. Diana Marculescu
"My middle school math teacher, Veronica Marinescu, is one of the main reasons I ended up on an engineering career path. She taught math with rigor and tough love, yet she had a league of student followers who kept in touch with her long after they had left for high school or college. I later realized many of them were women in STEM careers (like me), unconsciously inspired to take an unlikely path forward. Later in college, my compilers professor and undergraduate thesis advisor, Irina Athanasiu, was a gifted teacher, inspiring mentor, and enthusiastic fan of my accomplishments. I would not be where I am today without her guidance and advice, peppered with dry humor and witty anecdotes. Everyone should have a Veronica or an Irina - I was lucky to have both."
Prof. Nina Telang
"I’ve had a few women in my life who have inspired and mentored me, although the most important and influential woman is my mother, Meera. Despite having a very difficult and unstable upbringing and not completing high school, she raised three daughters and a son who went on to become professionals with advanced degrees. She taught us the joy of learning, the value of humility and compassion, and to face life’s challenges with grace and strength. I endeavor to practice her teachings every day in my work."
Prof. Amy Zhang
"I have been lucky enough to be supported by many women throughout my career. Muriel Medard at MIT was my undergraduate and Master’s advisor and a pioneer of network coding. From her I learned how to do research and how graduate research groups were run. She introduced me to my next intern supervisor, Nadia Fawaz, with whom I had my first publication in machine learning. Carolina Galleguillos was my first manager to truly support me and encourage me to go back into research. A few years later, I met Joelle Pineau at a deep learning summer school, who after a few brief conversations invited me to apply for a PhD in her group. Without these women, I wouldn’t be where I am today."
Prof. Hao Zhu
I have two. Chien-Shiung Wu, the "Queen of Nuclear Research," who made a significant contribution to the Manhattan Project, and Hedy Lamarr, the inventor of frequency-hopping communications and several other technologies. PBS featured Hedy Lamarr in their popular documentary series “American Masters.”