November 2011 Archives

The Colleges of Sciences and Engineering held “Women in Technology Day” for the first time at UMass Lowell.The event was held on Sunday October 23, 2011 and followed the university’s Fall Open House. It brought together about 60 female high school students and their families for a series of conversations with current students in the two Colleges, recent alumnae, and women faculty.

The event began with lunch and three speakers. Prof. Holly Yanco (Computer Science) described her work developing search-and-rescue robots and robots for health care applications. Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney described the university’s long-standing commitment to academic quality, its new academic buildings and on-campus housing options, and its initiatives to create more small classes and engage students in experiential learning.  

The invited keynote speaker, Mary Beth Smrtic, then told her personal story of being interested in the sciences since high school, majoring in computer science, and joining the business world. She began her career at Lotus (now part of IBM), and focused on helping businesses make sense of data. After working at Lotus, she co-founded a startup company which developed and marketed unique business intelligence software tools. The company was ultimately sold to Dunn and Bradstreet. After having children, she enrolled in UMass Lowell as a doctoral student. Ms. Smrtic is now pursuing work on visual analytics—discovering new ways to help people make sense of data, including data for medical diagnoses.

After the lunch, the guests were split into two groups. The high school students left for a series of three small-group panel conversations—with current female students in the Sciences and Engineering Colleges, with recent alumnae of UMass Lowell, and with new faculty in the two Colleges.

During this time, the parents stayed in Cumnock for a series of presentations. This program included introductions to the two Colleges, information about UMass Lowell’s service learning and on-campus research opportunities, and the honors program. Also, current students Heather Byrne (Computer Science) and Allison Fidler (Plastics Engineering) described how they came to major in their technical fields, and their experiences at the university. (A copy of the whole program is available here.)

Women in Technology Day was organized by the Associate Deans in the two Colleges—Fred Martin (Sciences) and David Kazmer (Engineering)—with assistance from the university's Admissions office. The initial inspiration for the event came from a WomenTech Educators Training that Martin attended in May 2011 with support from the Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology (CAITE).

After the training, Martin and Kazmer worked together to design the event. Support for UMass Lowell’s Women in Tech Day was provided by the Provost’s Office.

The event was considered a great success by all. Afterward, Dr. Moloney thanked Mary Beth Smrtic for “providing such a warm and personal perspective” in her talk, and alumna Danielle Niles said, “The students were fantastic and I really believe they got a lot out of the event.”

(L-R) Prof. Holly Yanco (Computer Science), keynote speaker Mary Beth Smrtic (PhD candidate, UMass Lowell Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology program), and Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney.

Guests seated for lunch at Cumnock Hall during Dr. Moloney's remarks.

(L-R) Panel of recent alumnae: Molly Clay (Chem. Eng., ’11), Nicole Rondeau (Mech. Eng., ’10), Caryn McCowan (Biology, ’11),  Amanda Kleschinsky (Env. Eng., ’10), Danielle Niles (Atmosph. Sci., ’06), June Odongo (Comp. Sci., ’05), and Nicole Sambursky (Chem. Eng., ’10).

(L-R) Prof. Cindy Chen (Computer Science) facilitates questions during panel with current students: Meghan Brooks (Chem. Eng, ’12), Stephanie Quintal (Math. Sci., ’13), Krithika Manohar (Comp. Sci., ’13), and Erin Webster (Comp. Eng., ’12).

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