September 8, 2007Her job: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Why did you choose engineering?
I was inspired by the TV show “The Bionic Woman,” in which a severely injured woman attains extraordinary powers through artificial (bionic) limbs. I decided at age 11 that I wanted to create artificial limbs for people. I planned to go to medical school, but discovered I hated biology—especially dissecting frogs. Then I heard about robotics and realized that, if I became an engineer, I could do exactly what I wanted to do.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
B.S. in electrical engineering, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
I teach and conduct research at Georgia Tech. I am working to discover new ways that robots can help both in space exploration and in assisting people on Earth.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
Working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I developed the next generation of Mars rover. Through artificial intelligence, this robot will be independent-minded enough to explore the Martian terrain on its own, without having its every move programmed by a human.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
Don't be afraid to learn the basics, and definitely keep your imagination alive. After all, engineering is about bringing new things to life!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
I like traveling and going to see live jazz bands. I also love watching science fiction movies and cartoons with my son.