Engineering is all about solving problems. And the challenges confronting us are daunting indeed. Climate change, aging infrastructure, rampant pollution, insidious threats to cyber security, global hunger, deadly pandemics—to name just a few. Many threaten our very existence.
We cannot hope to adequately address these problems when we exclude the unique talents, differing perspectives, and creative solutions that could be offered by the women and persons of color who remain so under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and math in our nation. Hence, diversifying our disciplines is an imperative.
As dean of the Hajim School, I am committed to:
- increasing the diversity of our students, staff, and faculty;
- creating policies, programs, and opportunities to ensure that women and those traditionally underrepresented in engineering are treated equitably;
- and, above all, supporting everyone with a spirit of genuine inclusivity.
We have reached some gratifying benchmarks. Our Department of Biomedical Engineering, for example, has achieved gender equity not only among its faculty but its undergraduates. Our Department of Computer Science is now well above national averages for percentage of women undergraduates. (Read more here about the history of our growth in women students overall.) And several of our departments have established Diversity and Equity committees consisting of faculty members, staff, students and alumni working together to help us achieve our goals.
During the last two years, we have profiled 51 of our faculty, staff, and alumni, who as women and underrepresented minorities serve as outstanding role models or who have contributed greatly to our efforts. We have done so not only to celebrate their achievements, but to remind us of what we continue to forfeit as long this underrepresentation persists in our school and in STEM fields in general. We are proud to present these role models to you below.
We have much work to do. I urge all members of our Hajim community, in rhe spirit of Meliora, to join me in this all-important quest.
First women graduates
Marie Bessey and Norma Doell overcame long-held stereotypes to become the first women to graduate with engineering degrees from the University of Rochester in 1939. Read more here. And click here for a list of other first graduates and PhD recipients by department and program, Hall of Fame athletes, award winners and Visiting Committee members.
- Jennifer Allen ’97 ’10 MBA: chairs the board of trustees of the Young Women’s College Prep (YWCP) Charter School of Rochester, which graduates 97 percent of the 7th through 12th grade City School District students it accepts, enjoys mentoring undergraduates at the Hajim School as a Real Reader.
- Miguel Alonso: professor of optics, a leading expert in theoretical optics, recipient of the Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Students marvel at his ability to enter a classroom with just chalk and a mug of coffee and start filling four walls of blackboards with equations—without once having to refer to notes.
- Mercy Asiedu ’14: an inaugural recipient of the Patrick J. McGovern Tech for Humanity Changemakers award; founder of two start-up companies that use advances in machine learning to provide preventative and diagnostic health care to chronic disease victims in sub-Sahara Africa.
- Delali Attiogbe Attipoe ’03: chief operating officer of 54Gene, which is helping close a critical gap in our understanding of the genomic drivers of disease by compiling phenotypic and genetic information from the world’s most diverse populations in Africa.
- Danielle Benoit: professor of biomedical engineering, director of the Materials Science Program, expert in therapeutic biomaterials for tissue regeneration and targeted delivery of therapeutics, recipient of College Award for Undergraduate Teaching and Research Mentorship
- Julie Bentley '90 '92M '96PhD: associate professor of optics, first woman instructional track faculty member in the Hajim School, an internationally recognized expert in lens design, recipient of Goergen Award for Excellence in Teaching
- Mark Buckley: associate professor biomedical engineering, forges collaborations across the university to find new ways to treat diseases and injuries to soft biological tissues, outstanding in welcoming underrepresented minority students in his lab.
- Jaime Cardenas: assistant professor of optics, creates nanoscale and quantum optical devices with microfabrication techniques, an outstanding mentor who puts high priority on giving his students the foundation to achieve great things in their careers.
- Laurel Carney: MaryLou Ingram Professor of Biomedical Engineering, an expert in the physiology and psychophysics of hearing, mentors colleagues in grant writing, recipient of multiple teaching awards
- Sally Child: Former senior lab associate for Edwin Carstensen and Diane Dalecki, mentored numerous students--increasing numbers of whom were women--during 52-year career, an expert in the biological effects of ultrasound whose name appears on nearly 70 journal articles
- Tanzeem Choudhury '97: professor of information science at Cornell University, leading researcher in novel wearable and mobile systems, and an advocate for gender equity
- Diane Dalecki: the Kevin J. Parker Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, chair of biomedical engineering and director of the Rochester Center for Biomedical Ulstrasound, expert in use of ultrasound for tissue engineering, designed curriculum for fledgling BME department
- Peter Delfyett ‘83MS: University of Central Florida Trustee Chair Professor of Optics, ECE & Physics, expert in semiconductor lasers, recipient of multiple awards, including election to the National Academy of Engineering, served two terms as president of the National Society of Black Physicists.
- Marvin Doyley: Chair of electrical and computer engineering who provided positive leadership in pivoting to hybrid models of teaching during COVID-19 and a staunch advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. An expert in ultrasound and elastography imaging to detect diseases.
- Sandhya Dwarkadas: Albert Arendt Hopeman Professor of Engineering, first woman chair of computer science at Rochester, instrumental in securing its participation in BRAID initiative to increase enrollment of women and minorities, expert in parallel and distributed computing systems.
- Joan Ewing '67M '73PhD: first woman PhD graduate in engineering at Rochester, former principal scientist at Xerox, advocate for hearing disabled persons.
- Cindy Gary: assistant dean for grants and contracts, helps maintain robust research portfolio in tough climate for federal funding, excels at orchestrating multi-investigator, multi-discipline, multi-institution proposals, launched CAREER award boot camp for junior faculty, recipient of Edmund A. Hajim Outstanding Staff Award
- Sheryl Gracewski: emeritus professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, first woman tenured faculty member in engineering at Rochester, first woman recipient of Hajim School Lifetime Achievement Award, expert in modeling the interaction of ultrasound with bubbles and stones in biological fluids and tissues.
- Marty Guenther: first undergraduate coordinator for Department of Computer Science, instrumental in helping the department attract women undergraduates to a field in which they have been underrepresented, a staunch advocate of study abroad, recipient of Hajim School Outstanding Staff Award
- Jeanine Hayes '92: Hajim School Distinguished Alumnae recipient who has thrived at leading teams and scaling innovative ideas at Internet start-ups and iconic global companies, such as Yahoo! and NIKE.
- Wendi Heinzelman: first woman dean of the Hajim School, former AS&E dean of graduate students, co-founder of Networking Networking Women (N2 Women), expert in wireless communication systems and protocols.
- Sharon Hoffman-Manning '79: former director of Johnson&Johnson global supply chain, operations consultant with IZBA, CASA volunteer.
- Susan Houde-Walter '83 '87PhD: first woman to be a tenured faculty member of the Institute of Optics, former OSA president, and CEO of LMD Power of Light Corp.
- Marylou Ingram '47MD: innovative researcher in cytometry, radiation biology, cellular biology, and immunology, a role model for women in STEM and a generous benefactor supporting fellowships and a professorship in the Department of Biomedical Engineering
- Melodie Lawton: assistant professor of instruction in chemical engineering, brings strong industry and academic research experience in her teaching, and overseeing student labs and senior design projects.
- Amy Lerner: associate professor of biomedical engineering, first female faculty member appointed to the department, created a model senior design program, co-chairs Commission on Women and Gender Equity in Academia, recipient of Goergen Teaching Award
- Diane Litman '82M '86PhD: professor of computer science at University of Pittsburgh, first woman PhD recipient in computer science at Rochester, leader in artificial intelligence, computational linguistics and other areas
- Gonzalo Mateos: associate professor of electrical and computer engineering is an emerging leader in using computational tools to understand networks as diverse as social media, power grids, and the human brain. Actively works with Goergen Institute of Data Science to forge new research collaborations.
- Beauclaire Mbanya ’20: a Global Rhodes Scholar recipient and Schwarzman Scholar who is guided by deeply ingrained values and beliefs that he learned while growing up in Cameroon, Africa.
- Theophano Mitsa '88M '91PhD: co-inventor of Blue Noise Mask, one of the most lucrative inventions in UR history; consultant and author; managing member of Aretisoft LLC
- Lisa Norwood '86, '95 (MW): assistant dean for undergraduate studies, architect of award-winning STEM-Gems program to retain underrepresented minority engineering students, recipient of University Witmer Award and Hajim School Outstanding Staff Award for unceasing efforts to attract and retain women and minority students in engineering
- Diana Nyyssonen '75PhD: first woman PhD graduate at Institute of Optics, "helped reorient the metrology direction of the semiconductor industry" as a researcher at the National Bureau of Standards
- Beth Olivares: Kearns Center executive director and University's dean for diversity in Arts, Sciences & Engineering, directs successful Upward Bound, McNairs Scholar and summer research programs that have benefited first-generation, low-income, minority, and women undergraduates
- Rohan Palma: study abroad counselor and global initiatives coordinator was key in opening up study abroad opportunities for our students. Understands pressures put on students, based on his own experiences as first-generation, underrepresented minority student
- Donna Porcelli: former graduate program coordinator in Department of Biomedical Engineering, brought much-needed administrative knowledge to the fledgling department, recipient of University Witmer Award and Hajim School Outstanding Staff Award
- Shawn Rochester ’97: skillfully documents the staggering, pervasive tax driven by conscious and unconscious anti-Black bias that continues to prevent Black Americans from accumulating wealth in proportion to their contributions and population.
- Sean Rodrigues ’12: leads projects that advance the development of autonomous vehicle systems as senior scientist at Toyota, took full advantage of his opportunities as an undergraduate here. “Rochester taught me I can do any engineering,” he says.
- Jannick Rolland: Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering and director of the Center for Freeform Optics, co-founder of LighTopTech, recipient of Edmund A. Hajim Outstanding Faculty Award, recognized as a woman pioneer in augmented and virtual reality
- Katie Schwertz '08: senior design engineer at Edmunds Optic director of SPIE is a rising leader in the field, and an outspoken advocate for gender equity
- Mario Simpson ’99: mentors our students through the Real Reader program and, as a member of our Visiting Committee and the Department of Electrical Engineering Industrial Advisory Board, raises questions we need to address.
- Louise Slaughter: former 16-term congresswoman, champion of arts and the humanities, crusader for jobs and tecnnoloy, forceful advocate for women, staunch supporter of programs vital to the University and the Hajim School
- Christopher Stewart ‘05MS ‘08PhD: a pioneer in the modeling of computer operating systems to make data centers more efficient, he overcame long odds in becoming an associate professor in computer science, at Ohio State University, thanks to positive PhD experience at Rochester.
- Donna Strickland '89PhD: professor at the University of Waterloo, co-recipient of 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for development of "chirped pulse amplification" while completing her PhD at Rochester
- Tim Talley ’88: remarkable path from electrical engineering to marketing and entrepreneurship,includes a bargain struck with a professor to get his degree, and wooing a national TV audience and a panel of celebrity investors with a flawless pitch for his dual-patented modular, no-tie sneaker laces on CBS’ Shark Tank program.
- Theresa Tuthill '84 '87M '91PhD: outstanding scholar athlete, first woman full-time faculty member at University of Dayton's engineering school, now senior director of imaging at Pfizer Inc.
- Nick Valentino: academic counselor and STEM-Gem program director oversees Hajim School programs to attract and retain underrepresented minority students, drawing his own undergraduate experiences to connect with students.
- Alexis Vogt '00 '08PhD: Monroe Community College associate professor, reinvigorated the school's Optical Systems Technology Program to address an acute shortage in the technical workforce of an industry vital to Rochester and the nation
- Charity Wallace ’09: the “tough” four years she spent as a first-generation undergraduate at Rochester “toughened me up” for the journey to her position as principal research associate at one of the world’s leading biotech companies and a dedicated Real Reader mentor for current undergraduates.
- Sharon Weiss '99 '01M '05PhD: professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University, director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, an expert in the use of silicon in photonics and optoelectronics
- Dottie Welch: BME's first undergraduate coordinator, set the standard for working with students, prompting Hajim School to establish an annual award in her name for staff members "whose performance and dedication enriches the student experience in the tradition exemplified by Dottie Welch.
- Michele R. Weslander Quaid '94M: named among "7 most powerful women to watch" in 2014 by Entrepreneur magazine for her work in national defense after 9/11, served as Google's chief evangelist and CTO for its public-sector division