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Spring 2021 People

Spring 2021 People

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

Dyan Gibbens, Ph.D. headshot with long hair

Dyan Gibbens, Ph.D.

Innovator of Sustainable Development

The fourth annual Impact.Engineered Awards recognized those who are improving life in underserved communities. The virtual ceremony took place Dec. 4, 2020, and was hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Engineering for Change. Leading engineers, impact investors, scholars, and social entrepreneurs came together to cultivate and accelerate engineering driving sustainable development.

The Impact.Engineered Award for Women Leading Technology and Impact was presented to Dyan Gibbens, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Trumbull Unmanned, a Forbes Top 25 veteran-founded company focusing on autonomy and data in energy and government. A U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, Dr. Gibbens leverages technical leadership in the Department of Defense Acquisitions and Aerospace Program Management.

In addition, she created a free drone camp with BP and Rice University and partnered with Intel for Innovation Generation, a global STEM initiative. In 2018, she founded autonome.org to support digital ethics; human-centered artificial intelligence; and STEM empowerment for underserved youth, young girls, and children of military families at Yale University, NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, and Workshop Houston.

Dr. Gibbens studied engineering, instructed skydiving, and learned to fly at the U.S. Air Force Academy. While serving as an engineering acquisitions officer managing stealth nuclear cruise missiles, a type of unmanned aircraft, she earned her MBA. She then supported Air Force One and Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) engineering and logistics. Her Ph.D. research in industrial engineering and management focused on UAS/drones, radio-frequency identification, wireless systems, and computer vision/machine learning.

The promotion of hydrocarbon sequestration from an unmanned aerial vehicle led to her selection as a Society of Petroleum Engineers Distinguished Lecturer. In 2015, Fortune named Dr. Gibbens one of the women shaping the drone industry and, in 2017, Huffington Post recognized her as an Emerging Veteran Tech Founder.

Munmun De Choudhury, Ph.D. headshot with glasses and brown sweater against a green foilage background

Munmun De Choudhury, Ph.D.

A Rising Star

Munmun De Choudhury, Ph.D., associate professor in the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing, received this year’s Association for Computing Machinery ACM-W Rising Star Award. The award recognizes a woman whose early-career research has had a significant impact on the computing discipline.

Dr. De Choudhury’s research develops novel computational techniques and technologies powered by these techniques to responsibly and ethically employ social media in quantifying, understanding, and improving personal and societal health and well-being. She is credited with laying the foundation of this new line of research — a topic that now constitutes a full-fledged research pursuit among scholars and practitioners worldwide. Toward this goal, Dr. De Choudhury’s research program adopts a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative approach involving more than 150 co-authors from more than 10 disciplines that balances methodological contributions with practical impact.

Her research group in the Georgia Tech Social Dynamics and Well-Being Laboratory combines the power of social computing, machine learning, and natural language analysis with insights and theories from the social and behavioral sciences, such as psychology, sociology, psychiatry, medicine, and public health. Dr. De Choudhury evaluates the developed computational techniques using diverse, transdisciplinary human-centered methods, deriving conclusions grounded in human behavior.

Dr. De Choudhury’s work has earned numerous accolades, including 13 best paper and honorable mention paper awards from ACM and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence; the Complex Systems Society Junior Scientific Award; and faculty awards from Mozilla, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo. Her research has raised more than $14 million in research grants, gifts, and contracts from federal, industry, and nonprofit sponsors, demonstrating the breadth of her research impact and interest from diverse stakeholders. She has advised social media companies, nonprofits, and advocacy and governmental organizations. In 2020, Dr. De Choudhury served as general chair of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media. She was a faculty associate with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard and a postdoctoral researcher with Microsoft Research.

E. Anne Sandel headshot with american flag in background

E. Anne Sandel

Outstanding Contributions to the Navy and the Nation

The American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) has awarded its most prestigious accolade — the Harold E. Saunders Award for Lifetime Achievement — to E. Anne Sandel, executive director of the Office of Naval Research (ONR), for outstanding contributions to the Navy and nation over her career.

ASNE presented the award to Sandel on Nov. 20, 2020, during the organization’s virtual Combat Systems Symposium.

The award citation described Sandel as “one of the most inspirational and outstanding civilian leaders in the Navy. No other Navy Senior Executive has made such a positive impact across so many fields of engineering to the U.S. Navy this century.”

The Harold E. Saunders Award, presented annually since 1977, honors individuals whose reputation in naval engineering spans a long career of notable accomplishments and influence. Nominees must have demonstrated productivity, growth, and outstanding achievements in engineering over the years. They also must have earned wide recognition from their peers and the broader naval engineering community as leaders in their fields.

As ONR executive director, Sandel is responsible for oversight of the coordination, execution, and promotion of science and technology for the Navy and Marine Corps.

One of the most rewarding aspects of her career has been the opportunity to mentor up-and-coming civilian federal leaders, especially women. During her career, Sandel has served as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy and was the first female civilian program executive officer. She also has overseen portfolios that included littoral and mine warfare systems, surface warfare systems, and the Navy’s International Programs, to name a few. Sandel has provided leadership across all areas of the Department of the Navy, including ship design; combat system design; fleet maintenance and modernization; international cooperation and technology sharing; and, most recently, research and development.

Rachel Segalman, Ph.D. headhos with colorful scarf

Rachel Segalman, Ph.D.

At the Frontier of Research

Dr. Segalman, the Edward Noble Kramer Professor and a professor of both chemical engineering and materials, was recognized for contributions to semiconducting block polymers, polymeric ionic liquids, and hybrid thermoelectric materials. With particular interests in energy, efficiency, sustainability, and materials and interfaces, Dr. Segalman’s research focuses on controlling self-assembly, structure, and the properties in functional polymers. Structural control over soft matter through microscopic length scales is an essential tool to optimize properties for applications ranging from solar and thermal energy to biomaterials. Her work paves the way for the development of sophisticated materials for energy application such as photovoltaics, fuel cells, and thermoelectrics.

Dr. Segalman, the Edward Noble Kramer Professor and a professor of both chemical engineering and materials, was recognized for contributions to semiconducting block polymers, polymeric ionic liquids, and hybrid thermoelectric materials. With particular interests in energy, efficiency, sustainability, and materials and interfaces, Dr. Segalman’s research focuses on controlling self-assembly, structure, and the properties in functional polymers. Structural control over soft matter through microscopic length scales is an essential tool to optimize properties for applications ranging from solar and thermal energy to biomaterials. Her work paves the way for the development of sophisticated materials for energy application such as photovoltaics, fuel cells, and thermoelectrics.

“The perception is that this is an individual honor, but I see it as a recognition for the university and the decades of wonderful people whom I’ve been able to work with,” said Dr. Segalman.

Dr. Segalman’s lab participates in numerous collaborative research groups at UCSB through the Materials Research Laboratory, the Mitsubishi Chemical Center for Advanced Materials, and the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies. Her research group also partners with researchers at UCSB and other institutions through Synthetic Control Across Length-Scales for Advancing Rechargeables; the Center for Materials for Water and Energy Systems; and the BioPolymers, Automated Cellular Infrastructure, Flow, and Integrated Chemistry Materials Innovation Platform.

A recipient of multiple honors throughout her career, Dr. Segalman is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Physical Society (APS). Additional recognitions include the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to early-career scientists and engineers; the National Science Foundation’s Early CAREER Award; and the Dillon Medal from APS.

stephanie law headshot

Stephanie Law, Ph.D.

Photo Credit: Kathy F. Atkinson / University of Delaware

Young Investigator Award

Periods of history are often defined by the materials used to make critical tools, from the Stone Age, to the Bronze Age, to today — a period some experts regard as the Silicon Age as silicon is used in semiconductors and other technologies critical for computing and communications. The development of sophisticated new materials could accelerate further societal progress.

A University of Delaware (UD) professor has been recognized as a leading expert in molecular beam epitaxy, a technique used to make promising, novel materials. Stephanie Law, Ph.D., associate professor, materials science and engineering, and co-director of the UD Materials Growth Facility, received the Young Investigator Award from the 21st International Conference on Molecular Beam Epitaxy 2020. Molecular beam epitaxy is a method used to grow materials such as crystals or thin films by depositing layers of molecules or atoms one at a time. Molecular beam epitaxy enables the creation of novel, precisely designed materials for use in many applications, such as ultrasensitive gas sensing or new qubits for quantum computing.

Dr. Law was selected for the Young Investigator Award for advances in the growth of novel optical materials, including heavily doped semiconductors, topological insulators, and other Van der Waals materials. She was selected for this award by leaders in the field of molecular beam epitaxy.

Her research group focuses on improving the quality of materials used for infrared and terahertz optics and plasmonics. The Materials Growth Facility at UD, which already features an array of world-class equipment for nanofabrication, growth characterization, and monitoring, microscopy, and calibrations, is expanding. New funding through UD’s Center for Hybrid, Active, and Responsive Materials, an NSF-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, will enable the purchase of a new sputtering system. Funds from a private foundation will make possible the purchase of a new electron beam evaporator.

This accolade is one of many for Dr. Law, a widely recognized scholar in molecular beam epitaxy. She has been honored with the Peter Mark Memorial Award from the American Vacuum Society, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Early Career Award from the U.S. Department of Energy, and the North American Molecular Beam Epitaxy Young Investigator Award.

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