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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 – Dian Fossey

Posted January 22, 2018 4:45 PM by lmno24

Dian Fossey is best known for dedicating her life to the study and appreciation of gorillas. She was an American primatologist and conservationist known for undertaking an extensive study of mountain gorilla groups from 1966 until her death in 1985. She was murdered while out studying the animals. It is believed she was killed because of her conservation efforts. She often butted heads with poachers.

She studied gorillas daily in the mountain forests of Rwanda. She wrote about her discoveries in her 1983 book, Gorillas in the Mist, which recounts her scientific study of the gorillas at Karisoke Research Center along with her own personal story. It was adapted into a 1988 film of the same name.

Called one of the foremost primatologists in the world, Fossey, along with Jane Goodall and Birutė Galdikas, were the so-called Trimates, a group of three prominent researchers on primates (Fossey on gorillas; Goodall on common chimpanzees; and Galdikas on orangutans). They were all recommended for the research by anthropologist Louis Leakey.

During her time in Rwanda, she actively supported conservation efforts and strongly opposed poaching and tourism in wildlife habitats. Her goal was to educate people and make more people acknowledge sapient gorillas.

Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center, a remote rainforest camp tucked away in the Ruhengeri province in the saddle of two volcanoes in Rwanda. She worked 9,800 feet up Mount Bisoke within a research area of about 10 square miles. She became known by locals as Nyirmachabelli, or Nyiramacibiri, roughly translated as "the woman who lives alone on the mountain."

Before Rwanda, she did research on gorillas in Congo. Those animals were more welcoming to human interaction, so her early time with the gorillas in Rwanda was a shock. Those animals only knew humans as poachers and it took some time for them to become comfortable with humans at a close distance.

In the course of her years of research, Dian established herself as a true friend of the mountain gorilla. However, she formed a particularly close bond with one gorilla named Digit. He had a damaged finger on his right hand (hence, the name) and no playmates his age in his group. Over time, a true friendship would form.

Tragically, on Dec. 31, 1977, Digit was killed by poachers. He died helping to defend his group, allowing them to escape safely. He was stabbed multiple times and his head and hands were severed. Poachers sold his hands as cheap souvenirs. It was then that Dian Fossey declared war on the poachers.

Fossey became more intense in protecting the gorillas and began to employ more direct tactics to combat poaching. She and her staff cut animal traps almost as soon as they were set; frightened, captured and humiliated the poachers; held their cattle for ransom; and burned their hunting camps and even mats from their houses.

She then returned to the U.S. for some time to work on her manuscript for Gorillas in the Mist. After publication she returned back to her camp for more research.

Fossey was brutally murdered in her cabin at a remote camp in Rwanda in December 1985. It has been theorized that her murder was linked to her conservation efforts. Originally, some suspected robbery as her belongings were strewn about, but none of her valuables were taken. The case has never been solved, even to this day.

After Fossey's death, her entire staff, including Emmanuel Rwelekana, a tracker she had fired months before, were arrested. All were later released except Rwelekana, who was later found dead in prison, supposedly by suicide.

Rwandan courts later tried and convicted Wayne McGuire, a research student, in absentia for her murder. McGuire had returned to the United States in July 1987. No extradition treaty exists between the U.S. and Rwanda, so McGuire, whose guilt is still widely questioned, has not served his sentence.

Fossey was buried among her gorilla friends, including Digit. Fossey's Digit Fund in the U.S. was renamed the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. The Karisoke Research Center is operated by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, and continues the daily gorilla monitoring and protection that she started.

1 comments; last comment on 01/23/2018
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Woman of the Week – Florence Nightingale

Posted January 16, 2018 8:57 AM by lmno24

Florence Nightingale was a social reformer, statistician and likely most known as the founder of modern nursing. Her work is going to be showcased in an upcoming film played by Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss.

Nightingale was a trailblazer in nursing who greatly affected 19th- and 20th-century policies around proper health care. She was known for her night rounds to aid the wounded, establishing her image as the 'Lady with the Lamp.'

She was born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy, and yes, the city inspired her parents’ name choice for the child. The younger of two daughters, Nightingale was part of an affluent British clan that belonged to elite social circles. She was recalled as a strong-willed child who often butted heads with people at the demure gatherings her family attended. She was a caring person though, and at an early age learned the value of helping others.

As a child, Nightingale was active in philanthropy, caring for the ill and poor people in the village neighboring her family’s estate. Nightingale eventually concluded that nursing was her calling; she believed the vocation to be her divine purpose.

Her parents were not happy to learn that this is how she wanted to spend her life. During the Victorian Era, English women had almost no property rights. A young lady of Nightingale's social stature was expected to marry wealthy to ensure her class standing—not take up a job that was viewed by the upper social classes as lowly menial labor.

She pursed nursing, despite her parent’s refusal, by enrolling at Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserwerth, Germany. After finishing school, she took a nursing job in a Harley Street hospital for ailing governesses. Her performance there impressed her boss so much that she was promoted to superintendent. Nightingale also volunteered at a Middlesex hospital around this time, grappling with a cholera outbreak and unsanitary conditions conducive to the rapid spread of the disease. Nightingale made it her mission to improve hygiene practices, significantly lowering the death rate at the hospital in the process.

The Crimean War broke out in 1853. At the time, there were no female nurses stationed at hospitals in the Crimea. After the Battle of Alma, England was in an uproar about the neglect of their ill and injured soldiers. The hospitals were greatly understaffed and care was so poor that many were outraged.

Nightingale saw this as an opportunity, but she was not prepared for what was to come. The hospital sat on top of a large cesspool, which contaminated the water and the building itself. Patients lay in their own excrement on stretchers strewn throughout the hallways while rodents and bugs scurried by.

Basic supplies like bandages and soap were in short supply. Even water was rationed. More soldiers were dying from illnesses caught and transmitted while in the hospital than were dying in battle.

She procured hundreds of scrub brushes and asked the least sick patients to scrub the inside of the hospital from floor to ceiling. Nightingale herself spent every waking minute caring for the soldiers. In the evenings she moved through the dark hallways carrying a lamp while making her rounds. The soldiers took to calling her "the Lady with the Lamp." Others simply called her "the Angel of the Crimea." Her work reduced the hospital’s death rate by two-thirds.

Based on her observations during the Crimea War, Nightingale wrote Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army, a massive report published in 1858 analyzing her experience and proposing reforms for other military hospitals. Her research sparked a total restructuring of the War Office's administrative department, including the establishment of a Royal Commission for the Health of the Army in 1857. Nightingale was also noted for her statistician skills, creating coxcomb pie charts on patient mortality in Scutari that would influence the direction of medical epidemiology.

While in Crimea, she contracted the bacterial infection brucellosis, also known as Crimean fever. She grew so sick that by 38 she was homebound and spent most of her time bedridden. She would never fully recover, though she lived until 90. From her bed, she continued to write about her nursing career and remained dedicated to helping alleviate patients from suffering. She was consulted during the Civil War on how to keep field hospitals in good shape.

4 comments; last comment on 01/17/2018
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Woman of the Week – Natasha Baker

Posted January 08, 2018 4:30 PM by lmno24

I came across this article on our main site, Electronics 360, and thought this lady would be a good one to feature on CR4! We were able to interview Natasha Baker, founder of SnapEDA. This company is a library of parts for circuit board design. The database allows designers to find information and parts for whatever invention they might have concocted.

Natasha Baker. (Image Credit: Natasha Baker)

While working as an engineer, she noticed the need for a service like this. She took the risk and quit her job at National Instruments to start building it. She launched it in 2013, and it now has over half a million engineers using the website each year.

Check out what she predicts for the future of the industry and how she got her start here.

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Woman of the Week – Megan McCoy Jones

Posted December 04, 2017 4:45 PM by lmno24

Megan McCoy Jones is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at McCoy’s Building Supply. She’s been around the business her whole life, as it’s been her family’s livelihood for more than 90 years.

During her summers as a kid, she’d spend time at the company shadowing her father and learning all she could about the company.

McCoy served as Director of Field Support at McCoy Corporation from August 2008 to December 12, 2011. In August 2007, she began a one-year term as Assistant Store Manager of McCoy's Manchaca, Texas store.

Source: McCoy’s Building Supply

In an interview with, she discusses the issues women in the construction industry often face. She prides herself with always asking good questions and trying to get a good understanding of all parts of an issue.

“I’m working hard to ask as many of our crew members as possible, and also customers, what’s working in their job, what frustrates them, what’s hard on customers to deal with, what’s making it easier for them to want to buy from us. I know what I know and I don’t know what they know. I want to ask good questions,” she said in the interview.

She noted that one of her biggest areas of growth is trying to fully understand the perspective of everyone and not just listen only to convince someone of her perspective.

Upon graduation, she joined McCoy's full-time in the Corporate Development department with the specific goal of learning all facets of the company's headquarters operations.

At the same time, she also worked with the Texas Legislature on behalf of McCoy's to revise the Business Franchise Tax, Lien Laws and tax exemption procedures for agriculture and timber industries.

She also serves as a Trustee of LUMPAC, LAT's political action committee, and a Member of the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin.

To read the full interview, click here.

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Woman of the Week – Danielle Dy Buncio

Posted November 13, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Danielle Dy Buncio is the co-founder and CEO of VIATechnik, a construction and engineering services firm working to make the construction industry better. The company works through virtual design and construction by blending global human capital with construction technologies.

Dy Buncio leads the company’s strategic growth efforts and builds and manages client relationships with architecture, engineering and construction firms around the country. Her projects have included everything from a point cloud BIM of one of the world’s largest breweries to the creation of a virtual “gaming” environment of a nuclear power plant.

Source: Linkedin

The company name is a combination of Technik, the German word for engineering and via – which came out of a brainstorming session with her husband, who works alongside her at the company.

They help designers and construction firms envision and plan for large infrastructure through 3D virtual design modeling, scheduling, and estimating. Their projects are built by the company virtually before physical ground is actually broken. It’s typically large scale projects like convention centers and large buildings. The main goal is to save money for clients because they can pinpoint potential problems in the construction process before it happens, she noted in an interview on Bootstrapping in America’s YouTube channel. The models can also be 3D printed.

“The construction industry is historically slow to adopt technology, so we’re not necessarily a brand new business, we’re taking existing technologies and helping companies implement them faster or quicker. It’s not new technology, but it’s new to the industry,” she said in the interview.

Before to founding VIATechnik, she worked for general contractors in the Bay Area, Sydney, and Chicago. As a civil engineer and a LEED accredited professional, she has extensive commercial building, heavy civil, and marine construction experience.

Dy Buncio holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

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