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August/September 2011

Diversity/Careers August/September 2011 Issue




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BDPA-NY holds fifteenth annual awards

New York, NY – This June, BDPA New York held its fifteenth annual scholarship and awards dinner at the offices of corporate sponsor UBS. This year the chapter presented two new awards: one for small business innovators and another for member of the year.

The keynote address was delivered by Carla Ogunrinde. An IT VP at Met- Life, Ogunrinde started as an executive assistant and worked her way up to her current IT leadership position.

Students involved in the chapter's Student Information Technology Education and Scholarship (SITES) program were given citations from Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer. The 2011 student honorees were Babijede Alao, Kevin Castillo, Khadije Celestin, Chris Farrell, Tevin Jeffers, Nicholas Reid and Cazemba Richards.

The chapter's small business innovator awards went to Eric Hamilton, CEO and founder of AdSmoke (www.adsmoke.com) and the Web Academy (www.thewebacademy.org), which offers free Web design classes over the Internet; and Sabrina Lamb, founder of WorldofMoney.org, which provides financial education to underserved youth in the NYC area. The first member of the year is Bilal Muhammed, PhD, who was master of ceremonies for the chapter's 2011 Black Family Technology Awareness Week event and has served the chapter in many other ways.

Also honored were sponsor JPMorgan Chase and corporate sponsor of the year UBS. A special award was presented to Denise Hebner, UBS director of group technology management.


PG&E; names Geisha Williams exec VP of electric ops

San Francisco, CA – Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E;) announces the appointment of Geisha Williams as executive vice president over electric operations, a new operating unit. Williams has served as SVP of energy delivery at PG&E; for more than three years. She began her new duties on June 1.

Williams came to PG&E; in 2007 after nearly twenty-five years at Florida Power and Light Company, where she was most recently VP for power systems and distribution. She was responsible for asset management and strategy, maintenance and construction, distribution ops and emergency preparedness and response.

Williams' appointment is part of PG&E;'s realignment of its natural gas operations. "Geisha will have the mission and mandate to raise the company's electric operations to world-class safety and performance levels," says C. Lee Cox, interim chair, CEO and president of PG&E; Corp.

Since joining PG&E;, Williams has been responsible for maintenance, construction and overall performance of the utility's electric transmission, substation and distribution systems. During her tenure the company reduced frequency and the duration of customer power outages to the lowest levels in years.

"With her hands-on leadership style, fresh perspective and deep knowledge of the industry, Geisha has been a force for innovation and change within our electric operations since joining the company," says PG&E; president Christopher P. Johns. "Her track here shows she has the knowledge and leadership skills to drive real performance improvements on behalf of our customers. There's no one better suited to take our electric operations to the next level and help us set the bar for the rest of the industry."

Williams is on the board of directors of the American Red Cross Bay Area chapter. She's been a champion of diversity and inclusion within PG&E;, supporting the Latino employee resource group, the women's network and the black employees association.


Chrysler Group's Valéria Fernandes is a "top Hispanic in technology"

Auburn Hills, MI – Valéria Fernandes, head of international IT for Chrysler Group LLC, has been chosen by the editors of Hispanic Engineer & Information Technology magazine as one of the "top 200 most influential Hispanics in technology." Fernandes is responsible for all international IT strategies throughout Chrysler's business units, subsidiaries and joint venture initiatives worldwide.

Each year's "Top 200" list features talented technical leaders of Hispanic origin in a variety of sectors. Awards are based on excellence in professional work, strong commitment to community and leadership as a role model and mentor.

Fernandes was honored at the Hispanic 200 Leadership Summit in Orlando, FL on June 10.

Scott Sandschafer, VP and CIO for Chrysler Group LLC, says that "Valéria exemplifies Chrysler Group's commitment to technical excellence and diversity and inclusion. The entire Chrysler Group team is very proud of Valéria and her extraordinary accomplishments as an IT professional and leader."

Fernandes has a degree in management IS with a focus on business systems analysis from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Campinas in Brazil. She also has a masters certificate in project management from George Washington University (Washington, DC). She is a member and past board member of Chrysler's Hispanic Employee Network and is a member of HITEC, the Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association, and the National Society for Hispanic Professionals.

"It is indeed a great honor to be included among this select group of top technical professionals," Fernandes says. "Chrysler Group believes that a multicultural work environment supports a stronger, more innovative and more sustainable company. I am very proud to be a member of this outstanding, diverse and global Chrysler Group team."


Women in Technology honors Northrop Grumman's Linda A. Mills

Linda Mills: overseeing large-scale enterprise solutions and business ops.McLean, VA – Linda Mills, corporate VP at Northrop Grumman and president of Northrop Grumman Information Systems, has been recognized for her leadership and professional achievements in the technology industry at the twelfth annual Women in Technology leadership awards.

Women tech leaders from SAIC, ASM Research, Noblis and AT&T; were also among the honorees.

Women in Technology (WIT, womenintechnology.org) works for the success of professional women in the greater Washington, DC technology community. The awards recognize women who embody WIT's spirit to "connect, lead, succeed."

Mills was honored in the "corporate public sector large business" category for her leadership in serving government organizations on the federal, state and local levels. She has championed significant educational initiatives promoting science, technology, engineering, math and cybersecurity. She has also worked to create a workforce and workplace that value diversity and foster inclusion.

As lead exec of the company's IS sector, Mills oversees large-scale enterprise solutions and business ops in areas like global command, control and communications; cybersecurity and identity management; homeland security; health, public safety and enterprise infrastructure; and business transformation.


Working Mother magazine announces 2011 best companies for multicultural women

New York, NYWorking Mother magazine has announced its 2011 list of best companies for multicultural women. The award honors companies that hold managers accountable for recruiting, retaining and promoting multicultural women.

The 2011 honorees include Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo, Verizon and other employers of engineers and IT pros.

"With the hiring of multicultural women outpacing losses for the fourth year in a row, the best companies for multicultural women are proactively cultivating a workforce that takes advantage of our country's diverse cultural makeup," says Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media.

See the full list on line at workingmother.com/best-companies/2011-best-companies-multicultural-women.


AACC gets grant from National Science Foundation

Arnold, MD – Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) has been awarded a $598,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support the college's Engineering Scholars Program: Increasing Access and Diversity (ESP Scholars).

The program will provide scholarships of up to $4,000 each year to financially needy, academically talented students to help them graduate from AACC engineering programs and transfer to four-year institutions. About half the participants will come from populations underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields: women, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

"We are all very excited," says Dr Alycia Marshall, AACC associate professor of math, who will oversee the program. "We're going to help more and more students succeed in completing their programs," she says. "At the same time we're increasing the number of graduates who will continue in the engineering field, which will benefit the community. We expect that AACC will be known as an institution that produces highly qualified engineers," Marshall says with pride.

For information contact Melissa Figueira, program director for sponsored programs, at 410-777-2110 or mnfigueira@aacc.edu.


Two teams are named as Kaylie entrepreneurship prizewinners

New York, NY – Two student teams were chosen as winners of the first annual Kaylie prize for entrepreneurship of the City College of New York. CCNY alumnus and award donor Harvey Kaylie, EE '60, announced the surprise decision following final presentations by five teams this past May.

"Stoke Innovation" took top honors. The winning team, composed of four graduate physics students and an undergrad EE major, is working to develop an affordable, noninvasive device for instant cancer detection through light analysis. Team members are James Scholtz, Denis Sharoukhov, Laura Sordillo, Giovanni Milione and Wayne Parkinson. Dr Robert Alfano, distinguished professor of science and engineering, is team adviser.

The device is a compact modular system which beams light at tissues through thin bundles of fibers and collects it within the same bundle for non-invasive diagnosis of various diseases. The instrument measures the "Stokes shift," a difference in light measured between a standard and the target tissue or material.

At first development was held back by the need for a $10,000 piece of equipment, so the cash-limited students designed an alternative device costing less than $800. "We were forced to innovate due to financial circumstances," says team leader Scholtz.

Second place went to "Dynamic Braille," a team of all first-year students, for their low-cost electronic Braille interface. Team members are Joseph Borrello, Jeremy Cortez, Sullivan Fleming, Sankha Ghatak and Nick Macaluso. Dr Ilona Kretzschmar, associate professor of ChE, is the team adviser.

The entry uses opposing electrical charges to distort a thin polymer film. The team envisions a field of "Braille cells," each made up of six tiny pins that would touch the film from below to create a raised pattern of dots to form Braille letters. The resulting e-reader-like device for the blind could display a full page of refreshable digital text. "As a team of freshmen, this has opened a huge door for our careers," says Cortez.

Both teams got financial support and housing for the summer to further develop their products. They're working in CCNY's new InnoLab, a workspace created to support such efforts.

The students' tremendous performance "shows that whatever limits you have, it's always possible to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," says contest sponsor Kaylie.

"This is a truly unique opportunity to let every student take the driver's seat," says Dr Dan Steingart, CCNY assistant professor of ChE, who served as faculty advisor to the students and organized and supervised the competition.

In November 2010 Kaylie established a $3 million endowment to support the prize at City College. His company, Mini-Circuits, is a Brooklyn-based RF and microwave electronic components design, manufacturing and distribution enterprise.


NSF awards fellowship to Draper co-op student

Cambridge, MA – This spring the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a graduate student research fellowship to Sarah Brown, a Northeastern University senior who will work at Draper Laboratory beginning this fall to improve diagnosis of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The NSF's grad student research fellowship program supports exceptional students in STEM who are pursuing masters and doctoral degrees.

Brown is currently part of the co-op program at Draper. She will begin work on a PhD in EE at Northeastern this fall, and will continue her work at the lab as a Draper Lab fellow.

Linda Fuhrman, Draper's education director, says Brown is "not just an exceptional student; she's also a leader and mentor in the community. We are very fortunate to have her choose to join Draper for her graduate research. We are proud to help train the next generation of America's high tech workforce."

Draper is a not-for-profit research organization dedicated to solving critical national problems. For more information, visit www.draper.com.


CSULA team scores first place with custom pinball machine

CSULA students and their mentor, Professor Jai Hong, third from left, pose proudly with their award-winning pinball machine. Los Angeles, CA – With spinners, switches, targets, flippers, kickers and bumpers, Cal State LA's Golden Eagle pinball machine won first place in the university division at the AeroDef Manufacturing Exhibition and Conference Manufacturing Challenge held this spring at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Beating out eleven other colleges and universities, CSULA team members constructed a pinball machine out of a combination of woods, plastics, composites and metals. All components were modeled using high-end 3D parametric design software and machined using manual and computer numerical-control methods. A series of electronic controllers was provided for the lighting and scoring systems.

Under the direction of faculty adviser Jai Hong, associate professor of industrial technology, the winning team includes IT majors, ME major John Morris and technical staff member Chris Reid.

Professor Hong explains, "The students faced real-life challenges during the project, maintaining a budget and meeting deadlines and time constraints as well as tackling mechanical and electrical problems. Each team member had a distinct role in the project. To transform an outdated machine to something new and attractive, the team applied vintage mechanical systems as well as high-tech electrical systems that made it stand out from the rest. We congratulate our students on their dedication, hard work and achievement!"


U Alberta researchers find girls can enjoy CS

Alberta, Canada – A joint research project of the faculty of education and the department of computing science at the University of Alberta (Alberta, Canada) finds that high school girls enjoy making up video games as well as just playing them.

CS prof Duane Szafron and researchers Mike Carbonaro, Jonathan Schaeffer and Maria Cutumisu note that "There's been a huge push throughout North America to try and get girls to go into CS.

"But educators are having a lot of challenges convincing them," says Carbonaro. "These findings are important as they demonstrate a way to motivate girls' interest in CS."

Researchers introduced a group of local grade 10 students to ScriptEase, a tool that lets them design and develop their own games.

They found that the girls liked creating games as much as the boys, and preferred game construction to activities like story writing. "In terms of the quality of the games developed, the abstraction skills the students learned and the amount of fun they had, there was no difference between the two groups," Szafron notes.


New report details status of women in science and engineering at MIT

Cambridge, MA – In the last decade, there has been a near doubling in the number of women faculty in science and engineering at MIT, and those women have an increasingly positive experience at the university, according to a new report commissioned as part of MIT's 150th anniversary. However, there are still issues that need to be resolved to increase the recruitment, retention and equity of women faculty members, the report notes.

A follow-up on two previous MIT reports, from 1999 and 2002, this new study examined the status of women faculty in the School of Science and the School of Engineering. Those reports showed that women faculty members at MIT felt professionally marginalized, through access to fewer resources and exclusion from departmental decision-making, for example. The reports had remarkable impact both at MIT and nationally, identifying several areas that needed to be addressed: the low number of women faculty, their exclusion from administrative decisions and the difficulty for them in combining work and family responsibilities.

The new report, however, shows that progress toward resolving those issues has been made. In both schools since 1999, the number of women faculty increased significantly (from thirty to fifty-two in science and thirty-two to sixty in engineering) and in both schools women now hold several senior administrative positions.

Noting that nearly all the women faculty members from science and engineering opted to participate in the study, Lorna Gibson, the Matoula S. Salapatas professor of materials science and engineering and chair of the School of Engineering study, says the change in the environment over the last decade is apparent.

"I chaired the study ten years ago for engineering, and if you had asked me then how much better I thought it could get for women faculty, I never would have thought that we would get this far in ten years," she says.

In science, the women faculty members report that "The institute is a much friendlier and supportive environment than perceived from the outside." In engineering, "There is a strong sense of excitement… about the intellectual atmosphere at MIT," the report notes.

The new report also shows where there is continued room for improvement. In science, there remain concerns about faculty search procedures, which the report states can lead to unfair perceptions about how women faculty are hired and promoted. The report notes that MIT is "family-friendly," but that childcare issues are still perceived as "women's issues" rather than "family issues."

Associate provost for faculty equity and institute professor Barbara Liskov noted that overall the study showed that women at MIT were very happy but that the work is not done.

"It's a continual process. I think this topic requires attention, and we can't forget about it or think that the problems are solved," Liskov says, noting that putting the report together "was a lot of work, but it was worth it, and I think it will be very useful going forward."


ExxonMobil, NSBE honor universities for minority retention efforts

Irving, TX – Exxon Mobil Corporation and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) have announced the inaugural winners of the Impact award, a recognition that honors universities for retaining underrepresented minority students enrolled in engineering programs on their campuses.

Purdue University, Virginia Tech and the University of Texas at Austin will each receive $10,000. The recipients were recognized at an event held at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC.

The Impact award was created by ExxonMobil and NSBE to address the problem of retention: about 60 percent of African Americans who start STEM degrees change their major.

"As a company built on technology, ExxonMobil clearly understands the importance of supporting the next generation of scientists and engineers," says Suzanne McCarron, general manager, public and government affairs, Exxon Mobil Corporation. "ExxonMobil and NSBE have created the Impact award to highlight retention models that are keeping underrepresented students in STEM fields, and then sharing those best practices with other universities."

"NSBE is proud to partner with ExxonMobil to create this award," says Dr Carl B. Mack, executive director of NSBE. "Our organization is dedicated to increasing the ranks of minorities in engineering, and we are excited to highlight programs that are helping address the critical issue of retention."

Purdue University's program focuses on outreach, recruitment and retention efforts and offers support to entering freshmen as well as returning engineering students. The university has also implemented an Academic Boot Camp, which is geared toward helping students adjust to differences between high school and college, and is offering assistance with first-year engineering courses.

At Virginia Tech, the Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED) focuses on ensuring that freshman students successfully transition to college. CEED implements a summer bridge program, freshman peer monitoring and residential living-learning communities, all of which contribute to the academic, personal and professional success of its students.

University of Texas at Austin's Equal Opportunity in Engineering initiative focuses on academic success and personal growth and includes First Year Interest Groups (FIGs), that help students build support networks with other students and faculty members. FIG cohorts also share a class schedule and weekly seminars to encourage relationship building among peers.



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