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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).

Woman of the Week – Rija Javed

Posted June 20, 2017 8:37 AM by lmno24

Rija Javed is currently a senior engineer at Wealthfront, and investment services platform. She leads banking and brokerage platforms and many of the company’s major initiatives. She supervises many projects at once, as well as coming up with creative ideas and solutions.

Credit: Linkedin

She didn’t always want to be an engineer though. In an interview with Refinery29, she noted that she came from a family of engineers and she made a point to not study it in college, which she calls her version of rebellion. She began at the University of Toronto studying commerce and accounting, but soon realized that subject area was not for her. She consulted her dad, who suggested she study electrical engineering. She reluctantly took his advice, but it turned out to be the right choice, she says.

After college, she began work at Zynga as a software engineer. She said in the interview that the company gave her the perfect experience before jumping into[BA1] Silicon Valley, as well as her first job in the U.S., as her studies were all completed in Canada. She worked at Zynga for just over a year, spending time on the infrastructure team as well as the gaming side. However, she reached a point where she wanted to work somewhere more close-knit and less established, so she could have a hand in how it grew. She’s found a good fit at Wealthfront. The company is an automated investment service.

"Initially, I was really impressed with the engineering blog; from there, the mission and company culture drew me in. There are peers I can learn from, but it's small enough that I feel like an integral part of the company,” she told Refinery 29. “Since joining, I've taken the lead on a massive infrastructure project that will impact much of the company's future. As for the mission, Wealthfront is going after a huge undertaking that I find personally rewarding and exciting — to change the way financial services are delivered, and create access to good financial management for more people."

Though she has found career success relatively early in life, she has spoken on the struggles of being a woman in the industry. She noted that there are many misconceptions about what it means to be an engineer, especially among women. She first thought it would be purely technical, but most of her job involves pure logic, rather than manual, technical work.

"Most of my work involves intense critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving. At Wealthfront, we are trying to change the way people in my generation understand and interact with financial planning. That means we often have a blank canvas to build something that hasn’t been built before, which requires a lot of collaboration and relationship management across teams inside and outside of the company. These are all things I find women inherently excel at. Unfortunately, misconceptions about engineering persist among women because there are few good resources that educate people about what being an engineer actually means. It’s one of the reasons I believe mentorship for young women interested in math and science is so important,” she told Refinery29.

She also spends time volunteering with young girls to foster their interest in engineering and STEM. She works with a nonprofit called the We Teach Science Foundation and tutors and mentors young women.

"I want to get rid of the idea that being an engineer means you sit alone at a computer. The more women there are, the more we can dispose of stereotypes about women in the workplace and [ideas about] how they should behave," she told Refinery29.

Javed also blogs on the company site, check her work out here.


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Woman of the Week – Mamie Phipps Clark

Posted June 12, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Mamie Phipps Clark was an American social psychologist who focused on the development of self-consciousness of pre-schooled black children. Her work was highly influential to the notable court case Brown vs. Board of Education, as her work brought racial segregation to light in schools.

Clark graduated from Langston High School at seventeen, and despite the extremely rare opportunities available to black students, she was offered several scholarships to pursue higher education. Among those scholarships were offers at two of the most prestigious black universities in the country - Fisk University in Tennessee and Howard University in Washington D.C. She chose to attend Howard University where she began her university career in 1934 as a math major minoring in physics. At Howard University, Clark also met her future husband, Kenneth Bancroft Clark, a master's degree student in psychology who later became famous for his involvement in Brown vs. Board of Education.

It was Kenneth who eventually convinced Mamie to pursue psychology because the field appeared promising in terms of employment, and would allow her to explore her interests in children's development.

In 1938, Mamie Clark Phipps graduated magna cum laude from Howard University. After her graduation, Phipps worked as a secretary in the law office of William Houston. She was about to witness the work of William Hastie, Thurgood Marshall, and others in preparation for Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. This had an influence on her master's thesis, "The Development of Consciousness of Self in Negro Pre-School Children."

In her thesis she investigated when black children became aware of themselves as having a distinct "self," and when they became aware of belonging to a particular racial group. It was the beginning of a line of research that became historic when it was used to make racial segregation unconstitutional in American public schools. She defined "race consciousness" as a consciousness of self as belonging to a specific group which is differentiated from other groups by obvious physical characteristics. She concluded that children became aware of their skin color very early in their childhood (likely by age 4 or 5), and it was precisely this conclusion that became the foundation and the guiding premise for the Clarks’ famous doll studies.

She continued school and earned her Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1943 from Columbia University.

Concurrent with her doctoral research, Clark worked with her husband on their Rosenwald-funded studies of racial preference in African-American children. Although they completed the studies by 1943, reports did not begin to appear in print until 1947. The Clarks presented the "dolls test." In this test black children ages three through seven were presented with four dolls: two of the dolls had brown skin and black hair, and two had white skin and yellow hair. The children responded to a series of requests by choosing one of the dolls. The children were asked to make racial identifications ("Give me the doll that looks like a colored child") and self-identifications ("Give me the doll that looks like you").

In terms of overall racial preference, the majority of the children chose the white doll as the doll they wanted to play with, indicated that the white doll was the nice doll and that the brown doll looked bad, and chose the white doll as having the nice color. The Clarks then compared the doll preferences of northern children with southern children. This work received attention from many NAACP lawyers and the work was used as fuel for expert testimony in school segregation trials.

This research is perhaps what she is most known for, but she also spent many years working with an organization she founded with her husband. The Northside Center for Child Development was created to give psychological and educational services to minority children. She also volunteered and sat on many community advocacy and advisory boards in Harlem. She retired in 1980 and passed away at her home in Hastings-on-Hudson, a few miles up the Hudson River.


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Woman of the Week – Alice Ball

Posted June 05, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Alice Augusta Ball was a young scientist whose work has upheld her legacy, as she died very young. She was a chemist who developed an oil extract, which served as the most effective known treatment of leprosy until the 1940s. She is also known for having been the first woman and the first African-American to earn a Master's degree from the University of Hawaii.

She was born on July 24, 1892, in Seattle, Washington, to James Presley and Laura Louise (Howard) Ball. Her father was a newspaper editor, photographer, and a lawyer. Her grandfather, James Ball Sr., was a famous photographer and was one of the first African Americans in the United States to learn to daguerreotype.

Ball attended Seattle High School and received top grades in the sciences. She graduated from Seattle High School in 1910.

Ball went on to study chemistry at the University of Washington, and in four years she earned bachelor's degrees in both pharmaceutical chemistry and pharmacy. In the fall of 1914, she entered the College of Hawaii (now the University of Hawaii) as a graduate student in chemistry. During the 1914-1915 academic year, she also became the first woman to teach chemistry at the institution.

Ball’s major adviser assigned her a research project involving the effect of chaulmoogra oil on patients with Hansen disease, known more commonly as leprosy. Her research developed a successful treatment for those suffering from the disease.

However, while she was conducting the research, she became very sick. She worked under extreme pressure to produce injectable chaulmoogra oil and, according to some observers, became exhausted in the process. Ball returned to Seattle and died at the age of 24. According to her obituary, she suffered injuries from inhaling chlorine gas during a class demonstration in Honolulu. Some sources say the circumstances around her death were mysterious for a time, but now it is likely determined to have been from the chlorine.

The chairman of the Chemistry Department at the University of Hawaii continued refining the research after Ball’s death, treating many patients successfully at Kalaupapa, a special hospital for Hansen disease patients. The “Ball method” continued to be the most effective method of treatment until the 1940s and as late as 1999 one medical journal indicated the “Ball Method” was still being used to treat Hansen disease patients in remote areas.

During her brief lifetime, Ball never received the acknowledgement from the medical world for her groundbreaking work. After her death, the chairman of the University of Hawaii Chemistry Department received recognition. Over time, however, researchers began to learn of Ball’s crucial contribution. In 2000, the University of Hawaii acknowledged Alice A. Ball as one of its most distinguished graduates.

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Woman of the Week – Jane Goodall

Posted May 22, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Jane Goodall is considered to be the world’s most knowledgeable chimpanzee expert, after spending over 50 years studying their social and family interactions. She has worked extensively on animal and general welfare issues.

As a child, she was given a lifelike chimpanzee stuffed animal named Jubilee by her father. Her fondness for the toy started her love of animals. Today, the stuffed animal still sits on her dresser in London. As she writes in her book, Reason for Hope: “My mother’s friends were horrified by this toy, thinking it would frighten me and give me nightmares.” But in fact, the opposite happened.

Her passion and interest in animals brought her to a Kenyan farm in 1957. She took a job as a secretary, and while there, made a phone call to Louis Leakey, the notable Kenyan archaeologist and paleontologist, to see if he’d meet with her simply to discuss animals.

As luck would have it, he was in the market for a chimpanzee researcher. In 1958, he sent her to London to study primate behavior with Osman Hill and primate anatomy with John Napier. Leakey did some fundraising, and then sent Goodall went to Gombe Stream National Park, becoming the first of what would come to be called The Trimates.

Leakey believed that a long-term study of the behavior of higher primates would yield important evolutionary information. He had a particular interest in the chimpanzee, and little information was known about them at the time. Few studies of chimpanzees had been successful; either the size of the safari frightened the chimps, producing unnatural behaviors, or the observers spent too little time in the field to gain comprehensive knowledge. Leakey believed that Goodall had the proper temperament to endure long-term isolation in the wild. At his prompting, she agreed to attempt such a study. Many experts objected to Leakey's selection of Goodall because she had no formal scientific education and lacked even a general college degree.

On July 16, 1960, she returned to Africa and established a camp on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in the Gombe Stream Reserve. Her first attempts to closely observe a group of chimpanzees were not successful; she could get no closer than 500 yards before they fled. She established a nonthreatening pattern of observation with another group, appearing at the same time every morning on the high ground near a feeding area along the Kakaombe Stream valley. The chimpanzees soon tolerated her presence and, within a year, allowed her to move as close as 30 feet to their feeding area. After two years of seeing her every day, they showed no fear and often came to her in search of bananas.

Goodall's research at Gombe Stream is best known to the scientific community for challenging two long-standing beliefs: that only humans could construct and use tools, and that chimpanzees were vegetarians. While observing one chimpanzee feeding at a termite mound, she watched him repeatedly place stalks of grass into termite holes, then remove them from the hole covered with clinging termites, effectively “fishing” for termites. They’d also take twigs from trees and strip off the leaves to make the twig more effective, a form of object modification that resembles basic toolmaking.

Goodall also discovered the aggressive side of chimpanzees. She discovered that chimps will systematically hunt and eat smaller primates such as colobus monkeys. She watched a hunting group isolate a colobus monkey high in a tree, block all possible exits, then one chimpanzee climbed up and captured and killed it. The others then each took parts of the carcass, sharing with other members of the troop.

Additionally, she discovered the violent tendencies the animals had toward one another. Goodall observed dominant females deliberately killing the young of other females in the troop to maintain their dominance, sometimes going as far as cannibalism.

After her research, she spent many years sharing her findings and writing books. Her writings have been met with some controversy, however. Many critics questioned her work as a whole because of her sometimes unconventional practices and lack of education. Some thought her establishment of feeding stations may have triggered the aggression she observed, but she maintained it was necessary for research to be conducted at all.

In March 2013, Goodall attracted a lot of media attention for her book Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the Plants with Gail Hudson. The book had not yet hit store shelves when Goodall was accused of plagiarism after a newspaper reporter reviewing the book called it into question. Media reports say the scientist borrowed sections from Wikipedia and other sources in her new book without giving them proper credit.

The publisher announced the release of the book would be delayed to address the unattributed sections, in an announcement shortly after the accusations. She later apologized for the improper citations. Many have criticized the minimal treatment she received for the incident: critics said something like this would cost other writers their job and reputation.

In 1977, she established the Jane Goodall Institute, which supports continued research and encourages protection of chimpanzees and their habitats. Today, she spends her time on advocacy projects such as this and continuing to spread the word about her discoveries and passion for protecting the environment.

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Woman of the Week – Dorothea Dix

Posted May 15, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Dorothea Lynde Dix was an American activist who worked to change the view of people with mental health issues.

She began a vigorous program of lobbying state legislatures and the United States Congress and created the first generation of American mental asylums. During the Civil War, she served as a Superintendent of Army Nurses.

In 1802, she was born in the town of Hampden, Maine, and grew up first in Worcester, Massachusetts. She was the first child of three born to Joseph Dix and Mary Bigelow, who had deep ancestral roots in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

At 12, she sought refuge with her wealthy grandmother, who lived in Boston, to get away from her alcoholic parents and abusive father. She attended school sporadically while she lived with her parents. She became a schoolteacher after moving to Boston, as there were not many career options for women at the time, and teaching was one of them.

In 1819, she returned to Boston and founded the Dix Mansion, a school for girls, along with a charity school that poor girls could attend for free. She began writing textbooks and published her most famous, Conversations on Common Things, in 1824.

She frequently suffered bouts of illness, like coughs and general fatigue. But with medical technology not where it is today, an illness like this could take away from one’s life significantly. These illnesses caused her to have to relinquish her school, but she began working as a governess for the family of Dr. W. E. Channing. It was while working with this family that Dix traveled to St. Croix, where she witnessed slavery firsthand. Teaching and demanding workload seemed to have taken its toll. She began to dwell on the idea of death, and felt overwhelmed by her physical maladies. Biographer David Gollaher, the first scholar to have access to all of her papers, has suggested that she suffered from depression at several times during her life, and that she experienced a type of mental breakdown during this period. These struggles, though undiagnosed, perhaps gave her certain empathy for others with mental illness.

Colleagues encouraged her to take a trip to Europe, as a way to escape life and see something new. She convalesced in England for more than a year at the home of politician and reformer William Rathbone. During her stay, she met prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, and Samuel Tuke, founder of the York Retreat for the mentally ill. She returned to Boston in 1837, just after her grandmother’s death. The inheritance she received enabled her to support herself fully and devote her time to reform and charitable work.

In 1841, she volunteered to tech religion to female convicts. She saw the conditions that people, specifically inmates with mental illnesses were forced to live in and she was appalled. She became determined to make things better. She began traveling around Massachusetts to research the conditions in prisons and poorhouses, and ultimately crafted a document that was presented to the Massachusetts legislature, which increased the budget to expand the State Mental Hospital. She toured the U.S. documenting the conditions and treatment of patients, campaigning to establish humane asylums for the mentally ill and founding or building additions to hospitals in Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Maryland, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina.

During the American Civil War, Dix was appointed Superintendent of Army Nurses by the Union Army, beating out Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Dix set guidelines for nurse candidates. Volunteers were to be middle aged and plain-looking. They were required to wear unhooped black or brown dresses, with no jewelry or cosmetics. Dix wanted to avoid sending vulnerable, attractive young women into the hospitals, where she feared they would be exploited by the men they worked with and served. Dix often fired volunteer nurses she hadn't personally trained or hired.

She often feuded with doctors over her ways, and many of the doctors didn’t want women in their hospitals at all. To solve the problem, the War Department introduced Order No. 351 in October 1863. It granted both the Surgeon General (Joseph K. Barnes) and the Superintendent of Army Nurses (Dix) the power to appoint female nurses. It also gave doctors the power of assigning employees and volunteers to hospitals – something Dix had done. She eventually resigned in 1865, and considered this a failure in her career.

Despite her stern ways as a supervisor, she was kind and caring in treating patients, and instructed her nurses to do the same. She cared for both Union and Confederate soldiers alike, and her hospital was usually the only place a Confederate soldier could be treated. When Confederate forces retreated from Gettysburg, they left behind 5,000 wounded soldiers. These were treated by many of Dix's nurses.

After the war, she resumed her work fighting for mental health rights. In 1881, Dix moved into the New Jersey State Hospital, Morris Plains. The state legislature had designated a suite for her private use as long as she lived. Although she was sick, she carried on correspondence with people from England, Japan and elsewhere. Dix died on July 17, 1887. Many memorials have since been constructed in her honor, and she was elected “President For Life” of the Army Nurses Association.


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