Category Archives: Science & Tech

Women in Science and Engineering

Women in Science and Engineering: Tunable Laser Inventor Mary Spaeth

One of the most accomplished engineers I have had the privilege of interviewing was Mary L. Spaeth, a specialist in the field of laser optics.

Spaeth was a pioneer who discovered the world’s first “tunable” laser.

While researching ruby lasers at Hughes Aircraft Corp., Spaeth “came to believe that dyes would make excellent lasers.” Dyes are strongly colored chemicals that can be used to add color to a material, such as hair or cloth.

The year was 1966, only six years after the first laser was invented. Continue reading

Women in the Lead: Smart Cities

Women in Science and EngineeringBy Holly B. Martin

Cities large and small are buying in to the Smart Cities movement, addressing the challenges of increasing urbanization using data and technology. Women in particular are prominently positioned as leaders in the movement, seeking to create more livable, efficient and sustainable cities through their technical, business and civic know-how.

As more and more people flood into cities worldwide, local governments are being called upon to help provide more services such as healthcare, economic development, infrastructure and safety to their burgeoning populations.

At the same time, the state of technology multiplies exponentially the amount of data being collected—as well as the possibilities of what can be done with this data. Continue reading

Women in Science and Engineering: Environmental Problem Solver Leslie Guth

Women in Science and EngineeringIn this fourth and final post celebrating Women’s History Month, I will highlight another AT&T scientist who I was privileged to cover early in my career as a writer. Though I worked in Media Relations at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1987 to 1990, I did not meet Leslie Guth until after I had left the Labs to begin freelancing.

Then, in 1991, I interviewed her for an article in Woman Engineer magazine. Guth had arrived at the Bell Labs Engineering Research Center in 1984, fresh from earning her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering Continue reading

Women in Science and Engineering: Fiber Optics Expert Suzanne R. Nagel

Women in Science and EngineeringIn honor of Women’s History Month, this is the third in a series of posts on some of the accomplished women scientists and engineers I have had the privilege of interacting with throughout my career. Back in 1986, I interviewed almost a dozen women working in fields related to lasers for an article in Lasers & Applications magazine.

Today I focus on another of these women, Suzanne R. Nagel, an engineer at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the area of fiber optics.

Suzanne R. Nagel, Ph.D.

Suzanne R. Nagel, Ph.D.

Without her, you wouldn’t be reading this online. No, she didn’t invent the internet. But she helped make it possible to create the first transoceanic fiber optic cable, leading to today’s high-speed data transmission that makes our world-wide internet service possible. Continue reading

Women in Science and Engineering: Flex Fuel Pioneer Roberta J. Nichols

Women in Science and EngineeringIn honor of Women’s History Month, this will be the first in a series of posts on women in science and engineering. As a woman engineer myself, and later as a technical editor and writer, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and interviewing a number of remarkable women in science and engineering whose achievements equal those of their political, artistic and pedagogical counterparts.

Today I’d like to highlight the first woman engineer I ever covered—in an article I wrote for The Orbiter, employee newsletter of The Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, Calif.

Woman Engineer Dr. Roberta J. Nichols advanced methanol as the best alternative fuel for cars.

Woman Engineer Dr. Roberta J. Nichols Credit: The Aerospace Corp.

The year was 1985, and Dr. Roberta J. Nichols, a former employee and Aerospace Woman of the Year, had been invited back to speak during the company’s annual Women’s Week celebration.

Working with her Dad

Nichols’ story may sound typical of many women engineers of that era. According to the LA Times, she was born in 1931 and grew up following her father around to junkyards and learning to weld as they fixed up old cars together. Later, her hobbies included dragboat, hydroplane and vintage car racing. Happily, she was able to carry over these passions into her professional life. Continue reading