Assistant professor, Arizona State University
Kevin Bair, an ASU graduate student, was working with Santos developing multiple anthropomorphic robotic hands in early 2011. Things were progressing on this sophisticated project when Bair died in a kayak accident. Though Santos and the lab were grieved by his loss, they eventually pressed forward. With her guidance, ASU completed the project and, in Bair's honor, named the robotic hand Bair Claw.
Seriously, though, it's interesting to learn about the work all of these individuals are doing. It was great to see a college student on the list -- especially one who is going to school while working full time.
It would be great if there were more women on the list, but unfortunately, I think this reflects the relatively low number of women in the engineering, especially electrical and mechanical engineering. Hopefully, in coming years, we will start to see a greater proportion of women on lists like this.
Regarding the small number of women on the list: I agree with Dave that part of the problem is the comparatively small number of women in engineering. I don't know what the percentage is today, but I believe it hovers around 10%-15%. In 1988, one of our editors, Gail Robinson, wrote a great in-depth look at this issue (about ten pages long, as I recall), and offered suggestions from experts on how to begin changing it. At the time, the percentage of women in engineering was between 10% and 15%. And now here we are -- 25 years later -- discussing the same problem, and I don't know if the percentage has even changed.
@Charles: According to 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up just 5.5% of mechanical engineers and 8.8% of electrical engineers. So it's unfortunate, but not surprising, that only 2 out of the 25 "Rising Engineering Stars" are women.
That being said, the proportion of engineering degrees awarded to women, while still low, is significantly higher, suggesting that the number of women engineers -- and, hopefully, the number of women "Engineering Stars" -- may steadily increase over time.
Regarding women in STEM, an older friend of mine said the proportion of women students at Caltech was about 5% when he went there in the late 60s. A younger friend (male), who went there in the 80s said it had increased to about 10%. By the time my niece got there in the early 00s, it had reached 20-25%. That's really slow, but at least a definite trend.
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