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Female Engineers That Are Making A Name for Themselves in The Electrical Engineering Field

July 14, 2019 by Emily Gray-Fow

Despite the ongoing battle for female equality, today’s women electrical engineers have made a name for themselves both in engineering and in other fields like politics and business. This list includes several well-established figures, but also runs through some up-and-coming engineers who we can expect to make big leaps forward in their field over the next few decades.

It’s interesting to see how an electrical engineering degree has served as a launchpad to various other exciting careers, both inside and outside the technology sector. For instance, it’s not the worst starting point if you want to go into space, or into politics. 

An electrical engineering degree proves a certain level of competence in general, not just in engineering, making it a great starting point for those who want to make a name for themselves.


Claire F. Gmachl

Claire F. Gmachl is the Eugene Higgins professor of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University. Best known for her work with quantum cascade lasers. Originally from Austria, she has been at Princeton since 2003 following a number of years at Bell Labs.

QC lasers are useful for monitoring toxic emissions, finding trace amounts of explosives, and other instances where high power, highly tunable optical sensors are useful. 


Image courtesy of MacArthur Foundation.


Ann Catrina Coleman

Ann Catrina Coleman is a Scottish electrical engineer currently working at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her work specialises in semiconductor lasers, and she has been a fellow of the IEEE since 2008 for her work in this area. 

She received the IEEE LEOS Engineering Achievement Award in 2006 for her work on quantum well intermixing for photonic devices, and she has also been an associate editor of the IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics. 


Image courtesy of The University of Texas at Dallas.


Claire J. Tomlin

Claire J Tomlin holds the Charles A. Desoer Chair at the University of California at Berkley. Originally from the UK, she is best known for her work in hybrid systems, decentralised and distributed optimisation, and control theory. 

An IEEE fellow, and aeronautics and astronautics specialist, she has been instrumental in the development of the Next Generation Air Transport System for air traffic control.


Image courtesy of UC Berkeley. 


Susana Mabel Malcorra

Susana Mabel Malcorra is an Argentinian electrical engineer and politician. She served as Foreign Minister for Argentina from 2015-2017. In May 2008, the United Nations Secretary-General appointed her Under-Secretary-General of the recently created Department of Field Support, and as chief operating officer and deputy executive director of the World Food Program (WFP)—where she oversaw emergency and humanitarian operations in more than 80 countries.


Image obtained from the official Susana Malcorra Twitter account.


Winnie Adhiambo Apiyo

Winnie Adhiambo Apiyo is a protection, instrumentation, and control engineer at the Kenya Electricity Generating Company. In addition to her degree in electrical and electronics engineering, she also has a postgraduate diploma in geothermal engineering. She has received several engineering awards and has been listed as one of the "Top 40 Under 40 Women in Kenya in 2018" in Business Daily Africa. 

She is currently pursuing a masters in sustainable energy engineering. 


Image courtesy of Reykjavik University.


Dr. Elza Erkip

Dr Elza Erkip has received a number of awards from the IEEE Communications Society, all related to her research interests in information theory, communication theory, and wireless communications. A professor of electrical and computer engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, she has also been elected to the Science Academy Society of Turkey. 

Her current work focuses on improving power consumption in 5G and mmWave communications systems. 


Image courtesy of New York University.


Kristina M. Johnson

Kristina M. Johnson is an American electrical engineer and entrepreneur most notable for her founding of multiple businesses based on her many innovations. These businesses have been instrumental in reviving the 3D film industry, amongst other things. She is also chancellor of the State University of New York. 


Image courtesy of the University of New York.


Naomi J. Halas

Naomi J. Halas holds multiple academic positions, and is a fellow of five different professional societies. She is the Stanley C. Moore professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics & Astronomy, and director of Laboratory for Nanophotonics at Rice University. She is a fellow of the Optical Society of America, the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

She worked for IBM from graduation in 1980 to her move to academia in 1990, and was responsible for the development of a 'dark pulse' soliton whilst employed there. Her work on nanoshells as a possible treatment for cancer has garnered funding in excess of $3 million USD from the US Department of Defense. 


Image courtesy of Rice University.


Susan Hackwood

Susan Hackwood is credited with inventing the concept of electrowetting. She was the executive director of the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) until her recently announced retirement

Electrowetting is widely used for the manipulation of tiny amounts of fluid, and it can be seen everywhere—from e-inks, to 'lab on a chip' devices, and more. Susan has also worked in the robotics department of AT&T Bell Laboratories and is originally from the UK.


Image obtained from World Telehealth Initiative.


Kimberly Bryant

Kimberly Bryant, who started out as an electrical engineer, founded Black Girls Code after feeling isolated as a black female in technology. The final straw was seeing how few black females were in a summer coding camp she sent her 11-year-old daughter to Stanford University

Thanks to the attention given to the lack of STEM opportunities for BAME women over the last few years, Black Girls Code has gone from strength to strength. 


Image obtained from the official Kimberly Bryant Twitter account.


Dr. Cynthia Breazeal

Dr. Cynthia Breazeal is currently an associate professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Trained as an electrical engineer, her focus is on robotics and how robots interact with people. 

With multiple awards in the field of robot communication and social robots, she is the director of the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab. 


Image courtesy of General Assembly.


Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa started out as an electrical engineer, and later joined NASA as a research engineer, before going on to become a NASA astronaut in 1990. She was director of Johnson Space Centre for some time until her retirement. She also holds three patents, and has authored several technical papers. 


Image courtesy of NASA. 


Peggy Johnson

Peggy Johnson started out as an electrical engineer. Now she is executive vice president of Business Development at Microsoft. Prior to that, she spent 24 years at Qualcomm in a range of engineering leadership roles. This followed on from her work at General Electric in their Military Electronics Division. 


Image courtesy of Microsoft.


Helen Atkinson

Professor Helen Atkinson is pro-vice-chancellor of Cranfield University’s School of Aerospace, and has held previous academic leadership roles at the University of Leicester. Awarded a CBE in 2014 for services to engineering, she is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and has shown repeatedly that it’s possible to juggle child rearing with an outstanding career in engineering. 


Image courtesy of Cranfield University.


Yoko Matsuoka

Yoky Matsuoka is the former chief technology officer of Google Nest. Previously a co-founder of Google X, CEO of Quantus, and a technology leader at Apple, she has also been an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington, and in 2007 became a MacArthur Fellow.

She recently joined the board of directors at HP, in addition to her current position as vice president of Google’s new healthcare technology division. 

Her work has focused on artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, robotics, and accessible technology. Her work on robotic hand design made her a leader in the field, and her work at Google Nest has led to many innovations in how people interact with technology on a daily basis. 


Image obtained from GeekWire.


Anousheh Ansari

Anousheh Ansari is another electrical engineer who went into space, this time as the first self-funded female visitor to the ISS, and the first Iranian in space. The sponsor of the Ansari X Prize, she also founded Prodea Systems, an IoT technology company. 

Having started out in electrical engineering, Anousheh has branched out into other areas of technology, most notably IoT and space. She is well known as a successful entrepreneur. 


Image courtesy of Singularity University.


Anca Dragan

Anca Dragan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley, and is a key member of the InterACT robotics lab at the same institution. She is part of the steering group for Berkley AI Research, and will continue to influence robotics and AI research for the foreseeable future. 


Image courtesy of UC Berkeley. 


Dr. Winnie Ye

Dr Winnie Ye is a professor in the Department of Electronics at Carleton University. She is also the 2018 winner of the IEEE WIE Inspiring Member of the Year award. Her work is largely focused on biosensors and photonics, and she is considered to be at the forefront of silicon photonics research. 


Image courtesy of Carleton University.


Parveen Wahid

Parveen Wahid is another winner of the IEEE WIE Inspiring Member of the Year award, this time in 2017. Her work on electromagnetics is first-rate, as is her extensive work on biosensors and other healthcare applications for electrical engineering. She is also proactive in the IEEE, specifically efforts in supporting women in engineering. 


Image courtesy of the University of Central Florida.

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