From achieving milestones in industry, academia, and research to an array of professional and personal accomplishments, these women are making news.
Marlene Watson. CREDIT: AISES
AISES Honors Longtime STEM Advocate
Marlene Watson is an unwavering advocate for Indigenous people in STEM. A Sequoyah fellow, she is a longtime member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, or AISES, and has effectively demonstrated her commitment to its mission: to substantially increase the representation of Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands in STEM studies and careers. Her advocacy garnered this year’s Ely S. Parker Award, the highest professional honor that AISES confers. It 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.
Her work with AISES has focused on professional and student chapter development, and she has extended herself as a mentor in the Full Circle Mentorship program for college students and professionals. Watson co-founded the first California AISES Professional Chapter in 1993 and later co-founded the Southern California AISES Professional Chapter in Pasadena and served as its president.
Watson served on the AISES board of directors from 1995 to 1997 and helped guide the headquarters transition from Colorado to New Mexico. She has held leadership positions on the board, serving as secretary, membership chair, and editorial advisory council member for Winds of Change magazine, the premier AISES publication, and as vice president of AISES Publishing Inc. She has often assisted in the coordination and facilitation of national conference sessions for student advisors and has presented at national and regional conferences.
Currently a civil engineer with the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, Watson leads a technical administrative team responsible for program and project management of the Tribal Transportation Program. In addition to engineering, her 38-year career has included roles as a training specialist, chaplain, architectural designer, civil designer, job captain, and project manager. Watson is trained in disaster management, homeland security, and emergency management and serves as a brigade chaplain with the Alaska State Defense Force at the rank of captain.
Linsey Marr. CREDIT: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Airborne Pathogens Researcher Receives MacArthur Grant
Linsey Marr, Ph.D., is one of 20 MacArthur Foundation fellows and a member of the Class of 2023, which the foundation describes as “exceptional, creative, and inspiring.” Each fellow receives a no-strings-attached $800,000 award deemed an investment in their potential. Dr. Marr is recognized for her research examining indoor and outdoor air quality and airborne pathogens that affect human health.
Experimenting at the intersection of atmospheric science, public health, and infectious disease, she clarifies the transmission of airborne diseases such as influenza — and more recently COVID-19 — and identifies effective public health interventions. Her research led public health officials to rethink how to address the transmission of these airborne diseases, which claim thousands of lives worldwide each year.
“Air pollution is responsible for an enormous burden on our health and well-being. The recent pandemic and recurring episodes of wildfire smoke underscore the need to tackle air pollution with renewed vigor,” she said.
In an effort to gain new insights and address these issues, an aspect of her research focused on infectious bioaerosols, airborne particles that contain viruses or bacteria. She and her collaborators determined how different humidity levels impact influenza virus stability and infectiousness by experimenting with H1N1 flu virus aerosols that contained extracellular material from human bronchial cell cultures to mimic human respiratory droplets. Their experiments revealed that relative humidity impacts virus stability because of the changes that occur in the physicochemical composition of respiratory droplets.
“As a result of her research, Dr. Marr was among the first to argue that airborne transmission via aerosols is a major mode of transmission for COVID-19.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, she examined how the virus spread. Her research determined that in addition to the large droplets transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes, thousands of tiny unseen particles that carry the virus are also transmitted.
As a result of her research, Dr. Marr was among the first to argue that airborne transmission via aerosols is a major mode of transmission for COVID-19. She and her collaborators explained that the infectious virus is carried in small aerosols that can infect others, both at close range and at long distances in indoor air. This finding informed guidance that mitigating airborne transmission should include masking and improved ventilation and filtration processes along with handwashing, sanitation, and social distancing.
Dr. Marr holds a B.S. in engineering science from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. After conducting postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she joined the faculty of Virginia Tech University and is currently a University Distinguished Professor and the Charles P. Lunsford Professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering.
Dr. Marr’s work has been published in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Clinical Infectious Diseases, and Environmental Science and Technology, among others.
Titi Oliyide. CREDIT: Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering
Process Safety Engineer Takes Young Engineer of the Year Honors
Titi Oliyide, a senior process safety engineer at Supercritical Solutions Ltd., of London, is the Young Engineer of the Year, an honor presented by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. The engineering industry award celebrates women working in modern engineering and seeks to show that women can succeed in a male-dominated profession.
In her role at Supercritical, Oliyide provides technical process safety expertise for innovative hydrogen production technology to facilitate the clean energy transition, while contributing to the company’s energy strategy and the U.K.’s net-zero plan for 2030. She also analyzes and challenges engineering designs to identify hazards within the process so they can be mitigated and corrected. The London-based company is working to develop the world’s first high-pressure, ultra-efficient electrolyzer and lowest-cost pressurized “green” hydrogen. Prior to joining Supercritical, Oliyide worked as a safety assurance engineer at Siemens.
Oliyide is a volunteer and board member of the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers, which supports higher achievements in engineering among students and professionals from ethnic minority backgrounds. She provides marketing support, mentoring, and interview preparation for students. She is also an ambassador for the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, where she inspires the next generation of women engineers through panel discussions and career talks.
Oliyide holds a B.Sc. in chemical engineering from the University of Lagos and an M.S. in advanced chemical engineering and process engineering from the Imperial College London.
Esther Luzzatto. CREDIT: Adi Miller
Patent Attorney to Chair Israel Tech Council
Esther Luzzatto, Ph.D., CEO and senior patent attorney at the Luzzatto Group, has been tapped to lead the Council for the Advancement of Women in Science and Technology. Established in 2000, the council serves as the governmental body that coordinates efforts to promote and increase the involvement of women in science and technology professions. The council includes representative leaders in different industries including engineering, technology, academia, and government agencies.
Dr. Luzzatto holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and is a managing partner in the Luzzatto Group. The family-owned business is one of Israel’s leading intellectual property groups and helps companies develop and protect their innovations and ideas. “My hope is to see women’s representation reflecting their proportional share in the population in the near future. We have much work ahead, but we are capable and must reach that goal,” she said.
Dr. Luzzatto is actively involved in volunteer activities related to promoting education, culture, and welfare as well as the social and economic development of the Negev region.
Colleen Bronner. CREDIT: UC Davis
Engineering Educator Cited for Impactful Work
Colleen E. Bronner, Ph.D., associate professor of teaching and vice chair of undergraduate studies in the University of California Davis College of Engineering, received the university’s 2023 Women & Philanthropy Impact Award, which honors a faculty or staff member for advancing opportunities for women and significantly benefiting local and global university communities. It comes with a $25,000 prize funded by donations to the award’s endowment, which the honoree can direct to a UC Davis fund of their choice.
Dr. Bronner has chosen to give her prize to the UC Davis AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, which offers resources that help level the playing field for students who do not have the same opportunities as others. AB540 refers to a California law that exempts certain nonresidential students from additional tuition.
Dr. Bronner leads a new environmental engineering major that is attracting more women students, and in 2019, she helped form the department’s committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dr. Bronner holds a B.S. and a Ph.D., in environmental engineering from the University at Buffalo, and an M.S. in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.