Women continue to rise to the top in their respective fields. Here are a few of the women whose achievements are making a difference in industry, academia, technology, research, and beyond.

Sally Kornbluth, credit: Jared Lazarus, Duke University

Duke Provost is named MIT President

Cell biologist Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D., former provost of Duke University, is the new president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), becoming its 18th president and second woman to hold the office.

Dr. Kornbluth will come into the role after having served as Duke’s provost beginning July 1, 2014. The first woman to serve in that capacity, she was the chief academic officer with broad responsibility for implementing Duke’s research and teaching missions. She oversaw Duke’s 10 schools and six institutes, and held ultimate responsibility for admissions, financial aid, libraries, and all other aspects of academic and student life.

During her tenure, she prioritized investments to strengthen the faculty and its leadership in interdisciplinary scholarship and education and pursued innovations in undergraduate education. She also reinforced the university’s prominence in the sciences, adding more than two dozen faculty in the sciences and engineering with expertise in quantum computing, data science, materials science, and biological resilience.

Her advocacy for inclusion and diversity led to the creation of an Office for Faculty Advancement, which helped grow the number of Black faculty from 67 in 2017 to more than 100 today. The office also provided seed money for projects aimed at supporting underrepresented faculty and scholarly projects on race and social equity.

Dr. Kornbluth and her team sought opportunities to make Duke more accessible and affordable by offering new scholarships for first-generation students; increasing need-based financial aid; creating a preorientation program for first-year students; and establishing a residential system that more closely aligned living and learning.

Prior to becoming provost, Dr. Kornbluth served for eight years as vice dean for basic science at the Duke University School of Medicine, which involved oversight of the biomedical graduate programs and existing and core laboratories. She joined the Duke faculty in 1994.

She holds a B.A. in political science from Williams College and a B.S. in genetics from Cambridge University, England, where she served as Herchel Smith Scholar at Emmanuel College. She also holds a Ph.D. in molecular oncology from The Rockefeller University and completed postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Diego. Prior to her career in academia, Dr. Kornbluth studied cell proliferation and programmed cell death, areas of central importance for understanding both carcinogenesis and degenerative disorders. She has widely published in these areas.

Donna Riley, credit: UNM Newsroom

Donna Riley Appointed Dean of UNM Engineering School

Donna Riley, Ph.D., is the new dean of The University of New Mexico School of Engineering. Dr. Riley comes to the role from Purdue University, where she most recently served as Kamyarhe Haghighi Head and Professor in the School of Engineering Education and professor by courtesy in environmental and ecological engineering.

During her time at Purdue, Dr. Riley led the School of Engineering Education, a first of its kind in the U.S., with 24 faculty and more than 30 staff members who have established themselves as national leaders in this new discipline. Under her leadership, the school offered a graduate program in engineering education, undergraduate programs in interdisciplinary engineering studies, and launched INSPIRE Research Institute of Pre-College Engineering, a university center that focuses on pre-college engineering education research and integration with science, technology, mathematics, and literacy. The research gleaned through the center is designed to impact education overall from development of curricula to STEM education policy.

Dr. Riley joined Purdue in 2017 from Virginia Tech, where she was professor and interim head in the department of engineering education. She also served for two years as program director for engineering education at the National Science Foundation.

After serving for a year as a science and technical policy fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she transitioned to Smith College, where she was a founding faculty member of the Picker Engineering Program, the first engineering program at a U.S. women’s college. At Smith, Dr. Riley taught core engineering courses including engineering thermodynamics, mass and heat transfer, mass and energy balances, and design-based introductions to engineering for majors and non-majors. Dr. Riley also conducted research in engineering education that intersects with ethics, gender studies, and science and technology and engineering studies. Her research focus is on the integration of ethics, communication, social analysis, lifelong learning, and other critical capacities in developing engineering professionals.

Dr. Riley earned a B.S.E. in chemical engineering at Princeton and a Ph.D. in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. She is a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Wren Walker Robbins, credit: AISES

STEM Educator is AISES Ely S. Parker Award Recipient

Biological scientist and educator Wren Walker Robbins, Ph.D., is the Ely S. Parker Award recipient for 2022. Now in its 39th year, the Parker Award is the highest professional honor that the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) confers and is awarded to an individual whose life’s work embodies advancement in STEM fields and creates opportunities for others in the Indigenous STEM community through education, mentorship, and leadership.

Dr. Walker Robbins, a two-spirit person of Mohawk descent, has 28 years of experience in higher education that includes service to Indigenous communities and understanding of alternative knowledge systems.

“She is enthusiastic about creating significant improvements in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI+) for people of color in academic and professional fields,” said Michael Laverdure, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and chair of the AISES board of directors. “Steady and calm, Dr. Walker Robbins is reducing barriers in STEM one student and one project at a time. Her resolve and strong connection with people are foundational to her leadership and her many achievements.”

Dr. Walker Robbins holds a B.S. in biology from Montana State University Billings and an M.S. and Ph.D. in cell and tissue biology from The University of New Mexico. She has devoted most of her career to innovative teaching of STEM courses and has been especially focused on the success of underrepresented students.

She began her career in higher education as an assistant professor of biology at Iona College. In subsequent years, she has taught at two tribal colleges — Turtle Mountain Community College, where she introduced Native Ways of Knowing, a secondary science program fostering the development of Native teachers to become change agents in their schools to transform education that serves all children; and at Salish Kootenai College, where she currently is an instructor and chair of the department of secondary education. At Salish, Dr. Walker Robbins developed the Integrative Indigenous Education program. This master’s degree program encourages the inclusion of Indigenous languages and cultures and offers graduate-level coursework to Indigenous people across Montana.

Dr. Walker Robbins is a member of the National Science Teaching Association and the National Indian Education Association. She is a lifetime AISES Sequoyah Fellow and serves on the Prism national advisory board of Teach For America, which oversees the strategy and direction of the organization’s LGBTQ+ programs.

Recipients of this prestigious award follow the example of Ely S. Parker, a 19th-century Seneca Nation chief who broke multiple racial barriers while serving as an Army officer, civil engineer, and tribal diplomat.

SHPE Honors Members for Technical Achievements

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) presented its annual SHPE Technical Achievement and Recognition awards program, which recognized 25 STEM professionals, 11 of them women. STAR honors outstanding professionals for their dedication, commitment, and selfless efforts to grow and advance Hispanics in STEM careers. The program also honors a company, a government agency, and an employee resource group for demonstrating significant, measurable, and visible assistance to further SHPE’s objectives. Awards were presented during the organization’s annual convention held this year in Charlotte, North Carolina.

U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, who represents Florida’s 27th District, is one of four government leaders to receive the Rubén Hinojosa SHPE STEM Award in recognition for spearheading in both chambers, the Resolution that expresses support for increasing the number of Latino students and young professionals entering careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The award is named for the former congressman and co-founder of Hispanic Engineering, Science, and Technology Week and a longtime champion of Hispanics in STEM.

Nora E. Rincon received the Jaime Oaxaca Award, the highest national award presented by SHPE to a member for selfless and outstanding contributions in the fields of engineering and science to the Hispanic community over an extended period of time. A life member of SHPE, Rincon is a program quality manager at General Motors where she has worked for 16 years.

The Dr. Ellen Ochoa Award was presented to Joelle C. Romeu, a technical fellow and aerospace engineer at The Boeing Company with 20 years of experience supporting Department of Defense, commercial, and intelligence community customers. The award recognizes a woman engineer or scientist who has made outstanding contributions in aerospace engineering. Romeu’s expertise is in ground segment architecture development, end-to-end system integration, and space operations.

Florida International University’s Julieta O. Vallejos, program coordinator of undergraduate education within the Center for Diversity and Student Success in Engineering and Computing (CD-SSEC), was recognized with the Advisor of the Year award for demonstrating a commitment to SHPE and for diligent support and development of their chapter.

Mónica Morales, P.E., is a water resources engineer at Jacobs assigned to its Los Angeles office while physically in Reno, Nevada. In this role, she strives to incorporate sustainable solutions using concrete and corrosion knowledge in conveyance and treatment designs while prioritizing the safety, needs, and concerns of the public. SHPE presented her with the Community Service Award, which recognizes an individual whose accomplishments and extraordinary efforts consistently demonstrate a commitment to SHPE goals and the Hispanic community.

The Diversity Award was presented to Maira Garcia, who serves as a flight management systems engineer at Honeywell Aerospace. She has worked on various product lines including flight controls, engine controls, and flight management systems. In addition to her technical role, Garcia serves as the Honeywell SHPE core program manager. She organizes and leads all of Honeywell’s efforts with SHPE, including its participation in the National Convention and the Honeywell MentorSHPE program.

The Innovator Award was presented to Marvi A. Matos Rodriguez, Ph.D. The award honors a scientist or engineer for innovative contributions to the fields of science and engineering that have created new paths with the goal of inventing breakthroughs and opening doors for others. Today, as director of engineering and design practices at The Boeing Company, she leads an important initiative: helping engineers leverage the learnings of the entire engineering workforce of 50,000 engineers — with the focus on safety and quality.

Her groundbreaking aerospace research and management work have had a significant impact on products used by millions of people. Dr. Matos Rodriguez holds nine patents in composites, thin films, and bioreactors for controlling cellular growth and engineered tissue. She earned a B.S. in chemical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, and an M.S., and Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She also holds an executive M.B.A. from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Gabriela Michel Sánchez-Sorondo is currently a manufacturing innovation manager at General Motors. She was named the SHPE Star of Today, which recognizes mid-level engineers with six to 15 years of experience who have demonstrated outstanding leadership attributes within an organization. She was honored for her work leading a team of engineers that spearheads innovation projects to improve efficiency across vehicle manufacturing facilities.

SHPE Star of Tomorrow recipient Milena Nino Sowell earned a B.S. in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University and began her career with the ExxonMobil Corporation in 2018 as a quality engineer. With the help of organizations such as SHPE, Sowell found the encouragement and community that she needed to continue to grow in confidence and excel as a leader. The SHPE Star of Tomorrow recognizes an engineer with three to seven years of experience, who has demonstrated outstanding technical performance and is recognized by their peers and superiors.

The Student Role Model Award-Graduate is the highest award given by SHPE to a SHPE student. Award recipient Adriana Mulero-Russe is pursuing a Ph.D. in bioengineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. Her studies focus on engineering biomaterials in combination with stem cells to develop new therapies in the regenerative medicine field. Mulero-Russe is the co-author of three published scientific articles and has presented her work in several conferences. She is committed to developing initiatives to empower the Latino/Hispanic community, with a special focus on increasing the numbers of Latinos in higher education.

The Young Investigator Award recognizes the exemplary work made by a scientist or engineer aged 36 years old or younger who has contributed in inventive ways to help the progress of research in any field of science and engineering. Award recipient Yvonne J. Diaz, Ph.D., is the North America technical service and development representative for Dow Performance Silicones. As senior research specialist, her current role includes leading a global cross-functional team in developing a more sustainable product portfolio for construction coatings and sealants. She is also leading the reformulation of three products being repurposed to deliver a more sustainable product line.

Maria Elvira Salazar, credit: SHPE
Nora E. Rincon, credit: SHPE
Joelle C. Romeu, credit: SHPE
Julieta O. Vallejos, credit: SHPE
Mónica Morales, credit: SHPE
Maira Garcia, credit: SHPE
Marvi A. Matos Rodriguez, credit: SHPE
Gabriela Michel Sánchez-Sorondo, credit: SHPE
Milena Nino Sowell, credit: SHPE
Adriana Mulero-Russe, credit: SHPE
Yvonne J. Diaz, credit: SHPE
Theresa Weston, credit: DuPont

DuPont Names Lavoisier Award Medalist

DuPont has awarded Theresa (Teri) Weston, Ph.D., its Lavoisier Medal for Lifetime Technical Achievement, which recognizes scientists and engineers who have made technical contributions throughout their careers that have had a significant impact on the business. It is DuPont’s highest award.

During her 35-year career in the construction space, she elevated the role of building science from a troubleshooting tool to a strategic capability with DuPont customers. Building science draws upon the engineering, architecture, chemistry, physics, biology, and the life sciences to understand the physical behavior of a building as a system. Dr. Weston holds a B.S. and a Ph.D., in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology, respectively.

Dr. Weston joined DuPont as a principal researcher in the fibers department focusing on structure and property relationships of carbon fiber and product development of carbon fibers for metal matrix composites. As her expertise in this area increased so did her responsibilities. She was named a technical fellow and continued her work in building science research and technology.

Dr. Weston developed and introduced new products and participated in industry-level initiatives. She leveraged her expertise in water and air barrier solutions to enable products that today are market-leading materials. This includes innovations in homewrap products that prevent air and water leaks and increase energy efficiency in a new construction; the industry’s first drainage wrap that provides a drainages plane behind stucco facades; and the first DuPont flashing product designed to protect vulnerable corners in buildings from air and water seepage.

Her external technical credibility was beneficial when engaging with code and standards groups and national committees. Dr. Weston also played a key role in the integration and establishment of the shelter business following the Dow-DuPont merger in 2021, focusing on building science-based common ground that resulted in a wide array of building systems solutions and ultimately collaboration and growth.

Prior to her retirement, Dr. Weston served a one-year appointment as a Dupont Laureate in the company’s water and protection and shelter solutions area with a focus on building science, sustainability, and resilience solutions. Now self-employed, she is president of Holt Weston Consultancy, a building science firm in Richmond, Virginia.

The Lavoisier Medal is named in honor of the 18th century French chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, who is considered the father of modern chemistry.