The research by women that’s shaping engineering

A special collection of articles by female engineers for National Women in Engineering Day – #NWED2016


In 1912, Edith Clarke started working for telegraphy and telephony pioneer George Campbell at AT&T as a “computer,” applying mathematical methods to long-distance electronic communication. She went to night school to study electrical engineering at Columbia University and continued her education at MIT in 1918, where she became the first woman to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering.

Dr. Clarke was a trailblazer, going on to become the first female professor of electrical engineering in the United States, at the University of Texas at Austin. To excel in such a male-dominated field took determination, but to Dr. Clarke it simply came down to skill, as she told the Daily Texan in 1948:

There is no demand for women engineers, as such, as there are for women doctors; but there's always a demand for anyone who can do a good piece of work.

Today there is certainly a demand, and there are thousands of women electrical engineers around the world. Last year Dr. Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emerita at MIT, won the IEEE Medal of Honor “for leadership and contributions across many fields of science and engineering.” Prof. Dresselhaus’ influential paper “Raman spectroscopy of carbon nanotubes,” published in Physics Reports, is included in a special collection of articles we have put together celebrating women in engineering.

Celebrating women in engineering

Celebrating women in engineeringFor more on women in engineering, including stories and resources, visit the Celebrating Women in Engineering page on Elsevier Connect.

June 23 is National Women in Engineering Day – a “campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry.” It’s run by the Women’s Engineering Society, and Elsevier’s Engineering Village is a sponsor.

In line with this year’s theme “raising profiles,” the Daily Telegraph will publish a list of the 50 most influential women in engineering, which will be announced at a breakfast event at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London. To celebrate this important day, we have put together a list of 12 influential engineering articles authored by women, which you can read for free until September 20, 2016.

Pioneering women in space

Engineers have made it possible for us to explore the universe; because of pioneering women engineers, the sky is the limit for today’s researchers.

Dr. Sally Ride, the first female American astronaut in space, was one of just six women chosen from 8,000 applicants when NASA published a recruiting ad. With a PhD in physics from Stanford University, she became the first American woman to fly in space in 1983, working a robotic arm to release satellites into space.

As well as paving the way for more women in aerospace engineering, Dr. Ride worked hard to promote STEM education. She spoke to girls and young women at more than 200 events and the Sally Ride Science Academy was established to continue her work.

Many women have followed in her footsteps, including Samantha Cristoforetti, an aeronautics engineer and European Space Agency astronaut from Italy. Cristoforetti also has an impressive list of firsts: she was the first woman lieutenant and fighter pilot in the Italian Air Force, the first Italian woman in space, and she holds the record for the longest single space flight by a woman, at 199 days 16 hours. You can read her article “Sodium chloride crystallization from thin liquid sheets, thick layers, and sessile drops in microgravity” in the special collection below.

Tomorrow’s leading engineers

One look at the top downloaded engineering articles on ScienceDirect shows some of the amazing work women engineers are doing to make an impact in research today. At the top of the list stands Dr. Fatma Omara, Professor in the Computer Science Department and Vice Dean for Community Affairs and Development on the Faculty of Computers and Information of Cairo University, Egypt. Her article “Genetic algorithms for task scheduling problem,” which offers a solution to a common computer programming problem, was the most popular engineering paper on ScienceDirect between October and December 2015.

Also featured in the top downloaded list is computer science PhD candidate Gema Bello-Orgaz of the Applied Intelligence & Data Analysis (AIDA) group at Escuela Politécnica Superior, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain. Her article “Social big data: Recent achievements and new challenges” presents methodologies for working with big data on social media, earning her 14th spot in the top downloaded list.

Both articles are featured in the special collection below along with research by leading women engineers from the 1980s to 2016.

Women in engineering – a special collection

These articles have women engineers as authors or co-authors. They are freely available until September 20, 2016:

Samantha Cristoforetti
Sodium chloride crystallization from thin liquid sheets, thick layers, and sessile drops in microgravity,” Journal of Crystal Growth (October 2015)

Ingrid Daubechies
Wavelet Transforms That Map Integers to Integers,” Applied and Computational Harmonic Analysis (July 1998)

Mildred S. Dresselhaus
Raman spectroscopy of carbon nanotubes,” Physics Reports (March 2005)

Shafi Goldwasser
Probabilistic encryption,” Journal of Computer and System Sciences (April 1984)

Fatma Omara
Genetic algorithms for task scheduling problem,” Journal of Parallel and Distributed Computing (January 2010)

Christine Pout
A review on buildings energy consumption information,” Energy and Buildings (2008)

Cynthia Breazeal
Toward sociable robots,” Robotics and Autonomous Systems (March 2003)

Gema Bello-Orgaz
Social big data: Recent achievements and new challenges,” Information Fusion (March 2016)

Ilaria Guarracino
Dynamic coupled thermal-and-electrical modelling of sheet-and-tube hybrid photovoltaic/thermal (PVT) collectors,”Applied Thermal Engineering (In Press)

Rebecca Cain
The development and application of the emotional dimensions of a soundscapeApplied Acoustics (February 2013)

Aprille Ericsson
Structural modeling for digitally controlled large orbiting platforms with colocated actuators and sensors,”Acta Astronautica (June 1997)

Melanie Lutz
Effect of the interphase zone on the conductivity or diffusivity of a particulate composite using Maxwell’s homogenization method,”International Journal of Engineering Science (January 2016)

The Women’s Engineering Society aims “to support women to achieve their potential as engineers, applied scientists and leaders; to encourage the education of engineering; and to work with organizations and influencers to promote gender diversity and equality in the workplace, and to sustain the historic legacy and future effectiveness of the Women's Engineering Society.”


Written by

Lucy Goodchild van Hilten

Written by

Lucy Goodchild van Hilten

After a few accidents, Lucy Goodchild van Hilten discovered that she’s a much better writer than a scientist. Following an MSc in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology at Imperial College London, she became Assistant Editor of Microbiology Today. A stint in the press office at Imperial saw her stories on the front pages, and she moved to Amsterdam to work at Elsevier as Senior Marketing Communications Manager for Life Sciences. She’s now a freelance writer at Tell Lucy. Tweet her @LucyGoodchild.


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