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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 – Anita Borg

Posted March 12, 2018 4:30 PM by lmno24

Dr. Anita Borg (1949–2003) was an American computer scientist and founded the Institute for Women and Technology and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Born Anita Borg Naffz on January 17, 1949, in Chicago, Illinois, she grew up in Palatine, Illinois; Kaneohe, Hawaii; and Mukilteo, Washington. Although she loved math while growing up, she did not originally intend to go into computer science. She taught herself to program while working at a small insurance company. She was awarded a PhD in Computer Science by New York University in 1981 for research investigating the synchronization efficiency of operating systems supervised by Robert Dewar and Gerald Belpaire.


In 1986, she began working for Digital Equipment Corporation, first at the Western Research Laboratory. While there, she developed and patented a method for generating complete address traces for analyzing and designing high-speed memory systems.

In 1987, Borg founded Systers, an online community, with 12 fellow women technologists. She wanted this project to provide a space for women to discuss about issues they experienced at work and share resources with each other. To this day, Systers offers a closed-network, safe community for women technologists.

In 1994, Anita co-founded the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) with Dr. Telle Whitney, former President and CEO of This was inspired by the legacy of Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. The two were tired of attending conferences with almost no other women so they created the celebration to offer women the chance to improve their technical skills and connect with each other.

In 1997, Borg left Digital Equipment Corporation and began working as a researcher in the Office of the Chief Technology Officer at Xerox PARC.

Borg then went on to found the Institute for Women and Technology, which encompassed Systers and the Grace Hopper Celebration, and introduced new programs to work with organizations and individuals to address the gender gap. After Anita’s death in 2003, the organization was renamed The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. In 2017, it became

Anita received many honors for her important work in technology and advancing women in the field. In 1999, President Clinton appointed Anita to the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology. In 2002, she received the Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy, and Employment. She was a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Board of Directors of the Computing Research Association. In 1998–99, she served as a member of the National Academy of Engineering’s Committee for the Celebration of Women in Engineering which created the Summit on Women in Engineering in May 1999. She served on the National Research Council’s Committee on Women in Science and Engineering.

2 comments; last comment on 03/14/2018
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Woman of the Week - Lise Meitner

Posted March 05, 2018 4:30 PM by lmno24

Lise Meitner was an Austrian-Swedish physicist who worked on radioactivity and nuclear physics. In 1939, Meitner and her research partner Otto Hahn led the small group of scientists who first discovered nuclear fission of uranium when it absorbed an extra neutron.

Nuclear fission is the process exploited by nuclear reactors to generate heat and, subsequently, electricity. This process is also the basis of the nuclear weapons that were developed in the U.S. during World War II and used against Japan in 1945.

Meitner spent most of her scientific career in Berlin, Germany, where she was a physics professor and a department head at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. She was the first woman to become a full professor of physics in Germany. In the 1930s, she lost this job because of the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany. She fled to Sweden, where she lived for many years, ultimately becoming a Swedish citizen.

Meitner received many awards and honors late in her life. But, she was notably snubbed for the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for nuclear fission. That was awarded exclusively to Hahn. In the 1990s, the records of the committee that decided on that prize were re-opened. Based on this information, several scientists and journalists have called her exclusion "unjust", and Meitner has received a flurry of posthumous honors. Despite not having been awarded the Nobel Prize, Meitner was invited to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 1962.

The Nobel mistake, though never directly acknowledged, was partly rectified in 1966, when Hahn, Meitner, and Strassman were awarded the Enrico Fermi Award. On a visit to the U.S. in 1946, she was given total American press celebrity treatment.

Meitner retired to Cambridge, England, in 1960, where she died October 27. In 1992, element 109, the heaviest known element in the universe, was named Meitnerium (Mt) in her honor. Many consider her the "most significant woman scientist of the 20th Century."

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Woman of the Week – Roberta Williams

Posted February 26, 2018 4:45 PM by lmno24

Roberta Williams is an American video game designer, writer, and a co-founder of Sierra On-Line (later known as Sierra Entertainment), who developed her first game while living in Simi Valley, California. She is most famous for her work in the field of graphic adventure games with titles such as Mystery House, the King's Quest series and Phantasmagoria. Williams is considered one of the most influential PC game designers of the 1980s and 1990s, and has been credited with creating the graphic adventure genre.

She is often referred to as the “Queen of the Graphic Adventure.” She founded On-Line Systems in 1980 with her husband Ken. Together they created the very first graphic adventure game, Mystery House. The game was an instant success and they were able to leave the grind of Los Angeles and move to a small mining town outside of Yosemite National Park. They opened their first office here in a town called Coarsegold.

Source: Sierra Games

Mystery House would become part of a series of six adventures called Hi-Res Adventures. The first adventure that Roberta designed after Mystery House was The Wizard and the Princes (1980), which was the first game with colored graphics. Then game Time Zone in 1982, which was the first game where outside artists were used. The game was massive and involved about 1,400 rooms at a time when an average game had less than 100.

Her next series of work is what really put her on the map. At the request of IBM, she created the first in a series of the first animated 3D adventure game called King’s Quest.

The series detailed the adventures of the royal family of Daventry and would comprise eight adventure games. It sold millions, likely because it allowed adults to experience a fantasy world and took them back to adolescenthood, she said.

At the same time, she also designed Phantasmagoria (1995), a horror game with a $4 million development budget and 2 years of development time, that had a script of about 550 pages and was published on 7 CD-ROMS.

She remained active in the gaming world until the late 1990s, when Sierra was sold to a larger group.

Since her retirement in 1999 (stated at the time to be a "sabbatical," she has stayed away from the public eye. However, in a 2006 interview, she admitted that her favorite game she created was Phantasmagoria and not King's Quest: "If I could only pick one game, I would pick Phantasmagoria, as I enjoyed working on it immensely and it was so very challenging (and I love to be challenged!). However, in my heart, I will always love the King's Quest series and, especially, King's Quest I, since it was the game that really 'made' Sierra On-Line,” she said.

In 2009, after three years of research, she started to write a historic novel, tracing Irish history, the Potato Famine, and the Irish immigration to the US.

1 comments; last comment on 02/27/2018
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Woman of the Week – Beverley Bass

Posted February 19, 2018 4:30 PM by lmno24

Beverley Bass was the first female captain hired by American Airlines and is perhaps best known for her quick decision making on September 11th, 2001, when she quickly responded and diverted her flight after receiving word of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Bass grew up riding horses in Fort Myers, Florida. When she was 9 or 10, she saw a handwritten sign offering plane rides for a penny a pound. She began collecting the three quarters it would take to get on a flight. However, her Aunt Ginger, who was watching her at the time had no intention of sending a young child up on such a cheap flight. Within a few years though, Bass had told her passion to her Aunt Ginger, who would take her to watch planes take off from the airport.

Source: Mark Graham

“The pilots seemed like gods to me,” Bass said in an interview with Texas Christian University. “But for years my father said no to flying lessons because he thought I’d lose interest in the quarter horses we raised, and he was convinced the horses were what would keep me away from boys and drugs.”

When she went off to college, she set out with one goal – to get a degree. She knew she’d need one to be hired by an airline, she took Spanish and interior design. But all the while, flying remained her obsession.

Her parents finally gave in and arranged lessons with the man who had offered those plane rides for a penny a pound.

“I came home after my first flying lesson and told my parents that this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” Bass said in an interview with her alma mater.

She arranged her class schedule so she could spend evenings at her flying lessons. After graduation, she spent her days racking up flight hours doing various odd assignments. Until she got the call from American Airlines. At just 24, she was hired as the company’s third female pilot and became the first to make captain.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Bass was flying from Paris to Dallas when she learned that terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center in New York City. The federal government closed U.S. airspace.

As she cruised along at 39,000 feet with a first-time co-pilot, Bass was told little else beyond where she needed to land.

“It was the hardest PA I ever had to make,” she said of addressing the passengers over the loudspeaker that fateful Tuesday morning. “I didn’t want to lie, but I had to protect the flight attendants because I didn’t want to cause havoc for them.”

Bass told passengers that “there was a crisis in the U.S. and that we would be landing in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, and that I would get back to them with more once we were on the ground.”

Her passengers and crew were stuck in Canada for some time, they had to find local stores and pharmacies to meet their needs because they could not access luggage.

She refused to let the terrorist attack muster up enough fear to stop her from living her dream. She said at the time that she’d always love to fly, despite the changing atmosphere following the attacks.

More recently, Bass has been in the news for being the inspiration for “Come From Away” on Broadway.

6 comments; last comment on 02/23/2018
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Woman of the Week – Samantha Larson

Posted February 12, 2018 4:30 PM by lmno24

Samantha Larson is an American mountain climber from Long Beach, California. In 2007, at only 18, she became the youngest non-Nepalese woman to climb to the top of Mount Everest.


Larson began climbing with her father, David Larson, when she was in sixth grade. They began the Seven Summits by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in February 2001, when she was 12.

During this expedition, she studied her eighth-grade algebra at 16,000 feet during breaks in climbing. She won the science fair for the state’s third-largest district by chronicling the effect of altitude on heart rates, using a medical monitor to test fellow climbers.


She also brought her oboe on the trek and played the instrument in the snowy conditions so as to be ready for a band concert upon her return to Long Beach.

Larson graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School in June 2006, deferring her freshman year at Stanford University for a year to train for the Everest climb.

On May 16, 2007, at the age of 18, she temporarily became the youngest non-Nepalese woman to summit Mount Everest. By reaching the top of Everest, she also temporarily became the youngest person to have climbed the Seven Summits (the "Bass list"), the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents. She and her father became the first father-daughter team to complete the Seven Summits. In August 2007 they climbed the Carstensz Pyramid, thereby also completing the "Messner list" of the Seven Summits.

For her climbing records, she was featured in the 2009 and 2012 editions of the Guinness Book of World Records. She’s been interviewed many times for her climbs and has even given a TEDx Talk on the subject.

These are just examples of her resilience and strength. Her adventures are best chronicled on her blog. She posted throughout the entire climb, offers how-tos and reflection on her journey.

She’s now 29, living and working in Seattle as a freelance journalist. She focuses on environmental writing and topics in science.

3 comments; last comment on 02/16/2018
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