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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

Women Who Inspire in Space and Science

Posted November 19, 2013 10:57 AM by CR4 Guest Author

The world of engineering, technology and science is often associated with men, but if you look around this trend is starting to turn on its head. If you put on the television or listen to the news you will see and hear that there are inspiring women dominating these fields, and recently the space NASA program reported they hired more women to come on board the program. Jobs are evolving, technology is enhancing and more women are being encouraged to get involved in science, space and engineering.

The universal success from television programmes such as The Big Bang Theory, and Countdown with a young mathematical genius Rachel Riley means just one thing: being smart is cool for women. The 'nerds' as we are often referred to as are the heroes of today. More and more women are being attracted to successful careers in science and engineering because of the female nerds that are leading the way and may it long continue. Space in itself may be the final frontier, but women are the ones spearheading the exploration.

Adventurous Female Explorers

Did you know that the first woman in space was the adventurous factory worker Valentina Tereshkova? She was actually chosen out of 400 applicants to become a Soviet cosmonaut, launching the Vostok 6 Mission in 1963. She was the fifth Russian to go into space and was entrusted to attempt the first docking manoeuvre with another spaceship. Incredibly forward-thinking for the time!

What is inspiring is not only was this the first female into space but the Prime Minister Khrushchev spoke of his fatherly pride for her - she was a propagandists' dream and nicknamed the Greta Garbo of space, much was made of her gender and looks, something that her male colleagues never encountered. Nevertheless, she paved the way at such an early stage for women in space. Sadly, it was another twenty years before the next woman entered space, and it was another Russian called Svetlana Savitskaya, who was also the first woman to complete a spacewalk in 1984. image source

Then you have Sally Ride, who was the first American woman in space, aged 32. The Physics graduate from Stanford University answered an advert from NASA and joined the team in 1978. Just five years later she had been integral to communications in two shuttle flights and developed a robotic arm for the shuttle. In 1983, she was then chosen for a space flight. During a press conference, much like Tereshkova twenty years previously, the focus was on her gender. The reaction was perhaps even more vehement than her Soviet counterpart met. Ride had to field incredible questions such as, "Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?" and "Do you weep if things go wrong on the job?" However, since then there have been 45 female US astronauts and their organs and weeping are all normal.

In It To Win It

You may not be aware but sometimes a competition through a radio advertisement can get you to Space. Yes, the first British woman in space was chemist Helen Sharman from Sheffield, who visited the Mir Space Station in 1991 when she beat 13,000 other contestants to win her place in space. Whist Sharman was orbiting space, she was involved in the agricultural and medical testing which was a fascinating adventure for her.

At just 27 years old, she was the fifth youngest person in space (out of the 528 people who have been in space). As Helen states in the video below it was something she never expected and did not attend to follow on as an astronaut in her career path but one moment changed everything and so can a moment for you if you grasp that opportunity.

Now, as space shifts into the tourism industry there is a whole new exploration dimension. It is worth mentioning that the first woman space tourist was Iranian-American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari in 2006. Space is fast becoming a female friendly industry, with four women serving together simultaneously on the International Space Station in 2010.

Social Media Following

If space, science and engineering are areas that pique your interest, you should now follow the newest and the best astronauts' careers and experiences via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+. Social networks are a really good way to keep up with the latest trends and developments of individuals exploring so do get using these social streams.

Karen Nyberg is the one to follow at the moment (@AstroKarenN). She is currently in space and posts breathtaking pictures of and views from the International Space Station. She is the embodiment of an ambitious career mom. Juggling life aboard the Space Station, her family life back home and being on camera all week, she is a hero. image source

The ones to watch in the future are NASA's new crop; announced recently and include equal female-to-male ratio. The successful women in the latest AstroClass are Christina Hammock, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir and Nicole Mann (all aged 34-35). They are highly qualified and from a number of different backgrounds including the military and science.

As you can see the stumbling blocks have been overcome and the future of women in space is bright and varied.

Editor's Note: Jenny Ann Beswick is a graduate of engineering who has worked in various fields of engineering work. Her experience within the industry started through a scientific role through her telegraph jobs in engineering and since then her work has branched off and led her to project manage construction sites and develop strategies.

9 comments; last comment on 11/20/2013
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Top 10 Women Engineers and Scientists

Posted October 18, 2013 12:00 AM by CR4 Guest Author

Many women have made great contributions to science and engineering. Check out the list of the 10 below and read their biographies. Then, let us know: who deserves top honors?

  1. Grace Marie Hopper
  2. Marie Curie
  3. Maria Telkes
  4. Virginia Apgar
  5. Dr. Sylvia Earle
  6. Pamela Low
  7. Sophie Germain
  8. Rosalind Elsie Franklin
  9. Harriet Quimby
  10. Ellen Swallow Richards
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Sandra Hall Magnus: AIAA Leader and Former Astronaut

Posted January 10, 2013 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Sandra Hall Magnus is a former NASA astronaut who spent 134 days in orbit and was part of the crew of the final mission of the Space Shuttle.

Sandra was born in Illinois on October 30, 1964. A career as an astronaut was an interest from the beginning and so she pursued engineering, earning several degrees including a PhD in materials science and engineering. Early in her career she designed sought experience, first designing stealth aircraft for McDonnell Douglas in the 1980s and becoming an astronaut candidate in 1996. Missions she was involved with included:

  • Installation of the S1 truss section on the International Space Station (ISS)
  • Survival training in an uninhabited area in the case of an emergency landing
  • Commander of the NEEMO 11 mission testing lunar gravity and remote-controlled robots
  • Flight Engineer on the ISS Expedition 18, logging 133 days in orbit
  • Training to fly a rescue mission for a shuttle flight

She cited NASA training as the best preparation for life aboard the ISS. During her time on the ISS she used her love of cooking to help experiment with the limited food choices: Discovery News. The NASA website gives Sandra's perspective of a typical day on the ISS.

Sandra left NASA and became executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in October 2012. She hopes to play a role in inspiring and recruiting the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technologists.

Resources: AIAA; Wikipedia: Sandra Magnus (image); Womanetics

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Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau – Supported Production of Penicillin, Chemicals During WWII

Posted December 27, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau was a chemical engineer who, during WWII, designed the processes for producing high-octane gasoline and penicillin.

Margaret was born in Texas in 1911. She earned a bachelor's degree from Rice University in 1932. By 1937 she became the first American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Her first career was at E.B. Badger where she worked on the design of production plants. She also met her future husband with whom she would have one child. Some of her early design work focused on the synthetic rubber that was needed for the war.

Penicillin was first mass produced in the U.S. in the early 1940s. In 1942 there was enough penicillin available in the country to treat just 10 patients. Scientists combined the discovery of the best penicillin being found on a moldy cantaloupe with fermentation research. Margaret developed the process of deep-tank fermentation which enabled large-scale production of penicillin.

Later, Margaret worked on improved equipment and methods for refining oil and the development of high-octane aviation fuel. She also improved distillation column design and plants for the production of chemicals like ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) and glacial acetic acid.

Margaret received awards from the Society of Women Engineers and AlChE. She died on January 11, 2000.

Resources: Celebrating 125 Years of Women at MIT; Chemical Engineers in Action - Innovators in Biomedicine; News Medical - Penicillin Biosynthesis; Convey Inc - In Defense; Wikipedia - Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau; image

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Florence Wald: American Hospice Care Pioneer

Posted December 13, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Florence Wald spent her childhood in and out of hospitals, which led her to pursuing a career in nursing. She eventually became interested in caring for the terminally ill.

Born Florence Sophie Schorske in New York City on April 19, 1917, she suffered from chronic respiratory ailments. Florence went on to develop an interest in nursing and earned several college degrees:

  • BA in nursing from Mount Holyoke College in 1938
  • MN from Yale School of Nursing in 1941
  • MN in mental health nursing from Yale University in 1956

Florence worked as a research technician with the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. It was around this time that the care of the dying shifted from being home-based into the hospital and non-family members began to take a larger role in their care. Family members faced limited visiting hours and the patients' caretakers were often concerned about the big picture rather than the individual.

Florence became a staff nurse with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York before returning to Yale for a second master's degree. She stayed in education as an instructor at Yale and was made Dean of Yale School of Nursing from 1959-1966. During her time as dean she both revamped the curriculum to be more academically rigorous and increased the focus on involving patients and their families in treatment.

Opening the First American Hospice

A 1963 lecture at Yale by Cicely Saunders on the topic of treating terminally ill cancer patients piqued Florence's interest in the topic. After resigning from Yale, Florence educated herself about the hospice movement by visiting St. Christopher's Hospice in London, an organization founded by Cicely Saunders.

Florence formed a team of doctors, nurses, and clergy that eventually founded Connecticut Hospice in 1974. It was the first hospice in the U.S. Florence was driven by the idea of giving people meaningful ways to cope with death. She wanted people to be able to maintain dignity during such a tough time.

Florence died at home surrounded by her family on November 8, 2008. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and named a "living legend" by the American Academy of Nursing that same year. At the time of her death there were over 4,700 hospices in the U.S.

Resources: - Florence Wald, 91; The Truth About Nursing - Florence Wald; Wikipedia - Florence Wald; image

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Cecile Hoover Edwards: Nutrition Advocate

Posted November 29, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Cecile Hoover Edwards is known for her work in nutrition research and advocacy.

Born on October 26, 1926 in East St. Louis, Illinois Cecile's mother was a former schoolteacher; her father an insurance agency's manager.

Education and Early Career

Cecile majored in home economics and minored in nutrition and chemistry. Those minors took a more major focus as she advanced in her education.

  • Attended segregated schools until age 15 and then enrolled at Tuskegee Institute
  • Earned a bachelor's degree in nutritional chemistry in 1946
  • Received a Carver Foundation fellowship sponsored by the Swift Meat Packing Company
  • Earned a master's degree in organic chemistry in 1947
  • Received a two-year General Education Board fellowship to enter the doctoral program at Iowa State University
  • Earned a doctorate in nutrition in 1950

Low-Cost, Nutritious Food

Cecile primarily studied amino acids and wrote a dissertation on methionine, an essential amino acid. She was curious about protein production and how lower-cost foods (such as vegetables) could meet nutritional needs. She studied:

  • Which vegetable foods could make the best meals for the least money
  • The southeastern American diet, weighing the pros of its protein sources and cons of its fat content
  • The effects of nutritional, medical, psychological, and socioeconomic factors on the pregnancies of low-income women (part of a $4.5 million study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health)

After the completion of her Ph.D., Cecile returned to academia as an assistant professor and research associate at Tuskegee in 1950. She was the head of the department of foods and nutrition from 1952-1956.

Cecile worked with the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics, utilizing her knowledge of hard scientific data related to nutrition to help transform home economics into more scientific study.

After leaving Tuskegee in 1956 she became professor of nutrition and research at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Cecile taught at the university and served as head of the department of home economics in Greensboro, North Carolina until 1971.

In 1971, Cecile joined the faculty at Howard University as a professor of nutrition and continuing economics. She chaired the department of home economics from 1971-1974 and was dean of the School of Human Ecology from 1974-1986. She established the university's Ph.D. program in nutrition and remained associated with the school until her retirement in 2000.

Cecile's other accomplishments included:

  • Chair of the White House Conference Panel on Community Nutrition in 1969
  • President of the Southeastern Conference of Teachers of Food and Nutrition in 1971
  • Chaired the National Conference on Black Youth Unemployment in 1983
  • Published more than 150 articles in scholarly journals

Cecile died of respiratory failure at age 78 on September 17, 2005.

Resources: African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention by Ray Spangenburg and Diane Moser; Black Women Scientists in the United States by Wini Warren; Chemical Heritage Foundation - Cecile Hoover Edwards; Encyclopedia of World Scientists by Elizabeth H. Oakes; The Washington Post - Cecile H. Edwards Dies at Age 78; Image -

3 comments; last comment on 11/30/2012
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