Monday, September 8, 2014

MIT Technology Review: The 2014 List of 35 Innovators Under 35

Earlier I threatened to take copies of my MIT Technology review magazines to the waiting rooms where my female friends might read them instead of Self, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, etc.  The latest issue of TR presents the 2014 list of 35 innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries under 35 years of age.  To see the full September/October 2014 issue, go to:

This year, we are pleased to see that 7 out of 19 (36.8%) of the Judges who selected innovators for this list are outstanding women in their own right. I have gathered their web sites so that you can read about their amazing contributions is science, technology, engineering, and math-related fields. 


Jennifer Elisseeff, Professor of Biomedical; Engineering, Johns Hopkins

Julia Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, Caltech

Cherry Murray, Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

Kristala Jones Prather, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, MIT

Laura Schewel, Cofounder and CEO, StreetLight Data

Rachel Sheinbein, Managing Director, Balfour Asset Management

Sophie Vandebroek, CTO, Xerox

These Judges located a total of 13 outstanding women (from the total of 35 innovators or 37.1%).  Their expertise is wide-ranging, with each competency offering substance and value for today and tomorrow’s scientific exploration. The quotes after their name is the citation from the TR article, along with their web site and biographical material.

Innovators Under 35:

Emily Balskus: “More precise knowledge of the bacteria in our guts could lead to better-targeted treatments for chronic conditions.”

Ayah Bdeir: “Electronic blocks that link with one another also connect art and engineering.”

Rumi Chunara: “Crucial information about disease outbreaks can be gleaned earlier.”

Emily Cole: “Can we cheaply convert carbon dioxide into something useful?”

Tanuja Ganu: “Simple devices allow consumers to cheaply and easily monitor Indias rickety power grid.”

Sarah Kearney: “A financial innovator is crafting a way for foundations to invest in clean energy.”

Duygu Kuzum: “Brain-inspired chips could mean better computer processing and neural implants.”

Megan McCain: “Heart on a chip paves the way for personalized cardiac medicines.”

Maria Nunes Pereira: “Patching holes in the hearts of sick infants.”

Julie Shah: “This MIT engineering professor is turning robots into ideal colleagues for humans.”

Mariam Shanechi: “Using control theory to build better interfaces to the brain.”

Kay Tye: “Identifying how the connections between regions of the brain contribute to anxiety.”

Kathryn Whitehead: “A systematic search discovered nanoparticles that could improve drug delivery.”

Fifteenth Anniversary of the 1st List

Outstanding women from the 1st list include the following 4 out of 10 (40%) innovators selected 15 years ago (1999).

“Anseth develops new types of photopolymers, plastics that go from soft to hard when struck by ultraviolet light. Anseth has invented novel photopolymers that actually wear away over time—a feature that promises much for orthopedic repairs.”

“Berger is leading a group of computational biologists to develop software that … predict[s] protein folding based on the sequence of amino acids. Such insights could eventually lead to new drugs to combat viral disease such as AIDS.”

“These days, robots are typically used in limited, specialized roles. But if Helen Greiner and Colin Angle [her cofounder at the company that would become iRobot] have anything to say about that, robots may soon be a more versatile and ubiquitous part of our lives.”

“Jeremijenkos aim is to pierce the ‘hallucinationthat cyberspace is somehow clean. In reality the digital domain is a world of hard truths. Silicon Valley is home to a large concentration of toxic waste sites and one of the nations largest gaps between rich and poor.”

If you recognized any names from this list, congratulations to you -- you are one of the outstanding visionaries who are on the lookout for talented women in nontraditional fields. If you recognize only Helen Greiner, one of the co-founders of iRobot ONLY because of the vacuum in your home, then read more about what a significant role robotics plays in every field of manufacturing and construction today.  You'd be amazed.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Light a Candle

We have a choice of cursing the darkness or lighting a candle to show the way for the next generation of young women to take on the modern challenge of computer science, programming, math, science, and engineering through advanced educational options.  How many thousands of depressing magazine and newspaper articles have you read about “the dearth” of young women in this or that arena?  That IS the “curse the darkness” mentality.

Let me show you the “light the candle” mentality instead.

Dr. Maria Klawe’s amazing progress at a little-known college in Southern California: Harvey Mudd College. Read about her amazing progress and methods at: 

Dr. Lenore Blum, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg also upped their computer science class enrollment by young women to 40 percent.

Stanford University’s she++ is a program developed by undergraduate students in computer science, demonstrating that real change can come from the innovations of young women themselves.

See especially their efforts to seed interest in computer science and technology at the high school level through fellowships:
the #include Fellowship Program, a community of High School and College students passionate about technology.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to School

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but we’ve come to make the journey of “going back to school” into the most miserable experience imaginable.  There once was a time when kids were enthusiastic about going to school or returning to school.  There was a real excitement about new shoes, bright new clothes, new book bags and pencils or pens.  There were fresh, unsullied booklets and binders.  We’d put paper bag or team sport covers on our books.  We looked forward to seeing friends who lived too far away to see during summer.  There was a certain joy about returning to class led by a favorite teacher. 

Parents participated in this “tone at the top.”  They’d use this time to teach us how to organize ourselves for the school. They’d coach us to polish our shoes and put them near the door. They’d run down first-day-of-school checklists: Did we have this? Did we pack that? Was our lunch or lunch money ready?

Today, every cartoon in our local paper broadcasts the imminent misery of going back to school.  Advertisers are conditioning our kids to counter the prospective misery by buying up and over-dressing to compensate for the tedium of school days ahead. As a consequence, why are we surprised that kids today act out that negativism in disruptive, aggressive, and sometimes bullying behaviors?

The prospect of a positive learning experience has been exchanged for this negative hype.  Misery loves company, so every mention of back to school becomes a downer.

If we want kids to be enthusiastic about their learning experiences at school, we will have to set the “tone at the top” and close down the negativity.  Going back to school needs to become, once again, an exciting, positive, productive learning experience.