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Envision Women Engineers - Biographies

Karen Panetta

Kathleen Morris

Laura Dauphinais

Helena Willis

Beth Wilson

Mary Edwards

Carolyn Duby



Karen Panetta, Associate Professor; Tufts University

Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering
Teaches core computer engineering courses
Developing the multimedia curriculum at Tufts
Creator, "Nerd Girls": Breaking the Stigmas and
Stereotypes of Women in Engineering project

Career Highlights:
Several awards for outstanding teaching and mentoring, creative curriculum development and outreach activities.  Recognized as the only educator in Massachusetts for Engineering Technology advancement by Mass High Tech Magazine, 2003. Dr. Panetta is the recipient of several NASA and National Science Foundation Research Grants, including the NSF CAREER Award. Performed engineering outreach activities to over 7500 Massachusetts school children, parents and educators through the Nerd Girls Program in 2003-2006.

B.S. in Computer Engineering, Boston University
M.S. in Electrical Engineering, Northeastern University
Ph.D. in Computer Systems Engineering, Northeastern University.


Tufts University, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering:
  • Responsible for instructing computer engineering core courses including microprocessor design, operating systems, digital logic and analog circuits, digital system testing and computer animation.
  • Director of the Simulation Research Laboratory at Tufts University. Current research areas include the development of image processing algorithms for enhancement and security, simulation, behavioral modeling and reliability analysis for multi-level systems including embedded processors and MEMS components..http://simlab.eecs.tufts.edu
  • Co-developer of the interdisciplinary Multimedia and arts minor. This was the first program in the  United States that paired liberal arts students with engineers.
  • Developed the first interdisciplinary projects in “Sports Engineering” at Tufts University.
  • Created the “Breaking the Stigmas and Stereotypes of Women in Engineering and Science: The Nerd Girls Project.”  The program encourages young girls to pursue engineering and science careers and shows all young children that Engineers are cool and very talented.  Website: http://nerdgirls.eecs.tufts.edu. Articles on Dr. Panetta and her award winning team have appeared in ElleGirl.Com, the Boston Globe, August 2002, written by Jena Russell, Newsweek Magazine, September 2002, written by Karen Springen and the IEEE Institute, September 2002, written by Helen Horowitz.
  • Faculty Advisor for the Robotics Academy at Tufts University and Faculty Advisor for the IEEE Student Chapter, which sponsors the “Junk Yard Wars in Engineering” and the IEEE robotics competition. Developed the “Robot Escape!” and “Virtual Student Pets” design projects for the advanced digital design course within the Electrical and Computer Engineering department.
  • Selected by Tufts University President Lawrence S. Bacow to be a member of the Tufts University Task Force on Undergraduate Education. This committee of 5 faculty and 2 students is responsible for designing the future of the Tufts Undergraduate education.




Laura Dauphinais, Director, Systems Engineering; Raytheon Company

Leading and directing Missile Defense Radar programs through their capture and proposal phases

B.S. in Computer Science, the UMASS Lowell
Graduate courses at Boston University and UMASS

  • Job description – Leading and directing Missile Defense Radar programs through their capture and proposal phases
  • Career Journey – Software engineer for 10 years designing Air Traffic Control and Battle Management Displays, as well as, designing Patriot Missile software.  For 13 years, contributed to all aspects of Systems Engineering including integrating, testing and firing missiles at White Sands Missile Range, NM.  Also, climbed the function management chain as a Section and Department Manager, as well as Systems Engineering Laboratory Director
  • Favorite part of career – Building by hand and then integrating, testing and firing Patriot like missiles at White Sands Missile Range, NM;  Mentoring all levels of the organization
  • Challenges you’ve overcome – wanting to have a successful career and being a mom at the same time;  Being a single mom
  • Preparation for career (education and other life experiences) – BS in Computer Science from the UMASS Lowell,  many other graduate level courses at BU and UMASS;  Many Management and Leadership programs at Raytheon
  • Advice – Expectations can make or break you – help them make you!  Share experience, knowledge, patience and time – it’s perceived as a gift by others but it’s a reward to yourself!




Beth Wilson, Senior Engineering Fellow; Raytheon Company

Lead test strategy for a complex radar system being installed on Navy ships.

Since joining Raytheon in 1983, has worked as a design engineer, program manager, research scientist, functional manager, and test director on sonar, satellite, and radar programs. Previous assignments:  deployment to Shemya, Alaska as the Test Director, a 2-year integration effort for in Virginia, and working as an exchange scientist to Australia

Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, the University of Rhode Island

 Role in Company (Title): Senior Engineering Fellow

  • Job description: Lead test strategy for a complex radar system being installed on Navy ships.  Work test concepts from manufacturing to system integration and incremental verification of system requirements throughout the lifecycle.
  • Career Journey: Since joining Raytheon in 1983, has worked as a design engineer, program manager, research scientist, functional manager, and test director on sonar, satellite, and radar programs.  Previous assignments have included a deployment to Shemya, Alaska as the Test Director, a 2-year integration effort for in Virginia, and working as an exchange scientist to Australia. 
  • Favorite part of career: Working the over-the-horizon radar that included working with the operators in Virginia and scientists in Australia.
  • Challenges you’ve overcome: In 1983, there were very few women in leadership positions.  I was born with a hearing loss and have been a life-long advocate for people with disabilities.  I use state-of-the-art hearing assistive technology to keep up with the virtual meeting technology.
  • Preparation for career (education and other life experiences): Earned a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island after joining Raytheon.  Volunteer work with non-profit agencies has brought in a wider base of interpersonal skills and problem-solving perspectives.
  • Advice: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them and no one gets hurt.  Never stop learning – it keeps you fresh and new things that just seem interesting can turn out to be important.
  • Influences: I wasn’t able to wear a hearing aid when Apollo 11 landed on the moon when I was 8 years old.  I asked if it was easier to go to the moon than to make me a hearing aid.  I was told it was easier to make a hearing aid, but that scientists were more interested in the moon.  I announced at that moment that I would be a scientist.  I respond quicker to a challenge than an invitation and always question the phrase “it can’t be done.”



Carolyn Duby, Pathfinder Fellow; Pathfinder Solutions

Consultant to teams of software developers using a technique called Model Driven Architecture.  Lead developer on the PathMATE toolset, which helps transform software designs to executable code. 

Started at Cadre Technologies (software design tools).
Fidelity Investments in Boston
Founded Pathfinder Solutions with Peter Fontana

B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science, Brown University

  • Job description: It sounds funny for a woman to have fellow in her title.  Fellow is a high level technical position and most of my work is technical.  I consult to teams of software developers using a technique called Model Driven Architecture.  I deliver training, help them structure their software, and assist them until the project is complete.  Pathfinder Solutions is a small company so I wear many hats.  We offer a set of tools called PathMATE that help transform software designs to executable code.  I am the lead developer on the PathMATE toolset as well.  I also present at conferences and represent the company in sales and marketing activities.

Career Journey

  • I attended Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River, MA.  A local junior college used the school building at night.  One of the advantages of this arrangement is that we were able to use the college's computers during the day.  Not many schools had computers at that time.  I took a computer programming class and was very intrigued by it.  In fact, I was so intrigued by it that I got obsessed about finding bugs in my programs.  My friend Cara reminded me at our reunion that I said I never wanted to be a computer programmer because it drove me crazy. 
  • I entered Brown University as a premed student.  I decided to take a computer programming course because although computers were relatively new it was clear that they were extremely useful and would be important to almost any career.  I majored in computer science and when I graduated there were many great opportunities.
  • I was a teaching assistant for a class where I met Lou Mazzucchelli, a Brown grad who came to talk to our class about the Cadre Technologies software design tools.  I completed a summer coop position at Cadre and accepted a full time position.  I entered the masters program at Brown part time while working at Cadre full time. 
  • I worked at Cadre for 6 years, completed my master's degree, and learned about software development in the real world from some of industry's best engineers.  At Cadre I also met many friends, my husband David Swift, and my future business associate Peter Fontana. 
  • After Cadre, I did a brief stint at Fidelity Investments in Boston with a really long commute.  It seemed as if it snowed every day and I spent way too much time in the car.  Peter Fontana had left Cadre as well and he needed some help with consulting.   We founded Pathfinder Solutions.  It seemed a bit risky at the time.  The notion of starting a company seemed foreign to my family.  It was different for me too, but I figured if it didn't work out, I would go get another regular job.  The job market at the time was flush with opportunities created by the Y2K repairs.
  • Over the past 12 years, I've had the opportunity to do interesting and diverse work in a flexible environment at Pathfinder Solutions.


Favorite part of career

  • I like to make things work from simple, elegant designs.  The embedded systems industry is interesting because often you are building a tangible device that perhaps you will use yourself.  Software is dynamic and there is always something new to learn.  The possibilities are endless.  Almost everything has software in it.  Working for a small company like Pathfinder Solutions offers diverse and interesting work.


Challenges you’ve overcome

  • Software is a male dominated field.  When I attended Brown less than a quarter of the class was women and there were no women professors.


Preparation for career (education and other life experiences)

  • Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Brown University



  • Don't be afraid of failure.  Some of the greatest inventors failed over and over before perfecting their inventions.  Take reasonable risks and have a backup plan.  To get better at something you need to go outside your comfort zone.
  • Seek out opportunities to do new things.  Take assignments that will allow you to see new parts of the business and meet new people.  The more skills and experiences you have, the more valuable you become.  Also you might discover something that you really enjoy.
  • Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can to learn at school.  Don't just skate though.  High schools and universities offer so many opportunities to meet people and learn new things.  If you skate through, you are wasting your money.
  • Live below your means.  You will have the most flexibility when choosing what you want to do. 
  • Be persistent.  If you really want something, keep at it. 
  • Learn to write and speak effectively.  In the scientific and engineering fields it is extremely important to be able to communicate your ideas to others.
  • Network effectively.  Networking means helping others too.  Not just getting things for you.
  • Seek out the smartest and most experienced people to work with. 

Find a good mentor.

As far as career and family balance, you can have it all, but not all at once.  When you have small children, you might not always be the star at work.  Just do the best you can on both fronts. 

  • Influences

My parents had a great deal of influence on my career development.  They instilled confidence in me and raised me to feel that I could do anything I wanted to.  They encouraged me to go the distance and to be the best I could be.  They sacrificed so that I could go to the best schools and took me to countless extracurricular activities.  

I've been fortunate to study and work with some of the finest professionals in software development.  My work with Scott Meyers at Brown University gave me a deeper knowledge of the C++ programming language and Scott is also a model of a really effective technical communicator. 

I had the opportunity to work with Sally Shlaer of Project Technologies.  She was a great innovator in the software design field and an excellent communicator.




Kathleen Morris, Owner of “The Carpenter Aunt”

Owner of “The Carpenter Aunt” – Design and build furniture and built-ins.

1st career - built some of the first computerized equipment for assembly lines.
Wrote software to run machines like time-clocks and electron microscopes.

With a friend, started our own business building test equipment for companies like Ford and General Electric. 

B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Northeastern University

  •  Job description: Currently I design and build furniture and built-ins.   But in my 1st career I used to build some of the first computerized equipment for assembly lines.  After the manufacturing companies began to leave the United States I wrote software to run machines like time-clocks and electron microscopes. 
  • Career Journey: I first worked for 3 months making shoes in a shoe factory in Wakefield MA.  It was horrid so I decided college was a very good idea.  In between college attempts I worked as a mechanic for Polaroid for 2 years.  This gave me a very strong design background for building machines.  After graduation I worked building computer controlled machines for assembly lines for 6 years.  A friend and I started our own business building test equipment for companies like Ford and General Electric.  When the company folded in the recession of 1980 I started writing software for companies who sold machines.  1st time clocks, then raid storage units and finally electron microscopes.
  • Favorite part of career:  Being a partner in my own business.  We built data acquisition instruments for testing products coming off of assembly lines.  I had the opportunity to design and build some of the very 1st computerized assembly line equipment.  It was awesome to see all of the things that machines could do when you attached them to a computer.  We also traveled a lot in our own airplane to different parts of the country to visit customers.
  • Challenges you’ve overcome:   Getting accepted into and graduating out of  engineering school.  When I graduated from high school in 1969, most small engineering schools would not accept women.  Then they passed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  This opened up enrollment of women into any engineering department that had women attending other departments in the college.  When I was in school I was the only girl.  It was scary to be so different and to have no one to talk to who understood what my life was like.

    College was very difficult for me because I am the 1st woman in my family to graduate from high school, much less go to college.  I had no roll models for choosing a profession, for studying, or for knowing how to fit into a college atmosphere.  When I graduated from high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do because I had never been exposed to women who worked (other that assembly line work or housework).  I started at University of Mass in Boston because my guidance councilor in high school told me that girls couldn’t go to engineering schools, but that since I liked math I should be a high school teacher.  I hated teacher’s school.  Then I went to University of Maryland as an interior design major for 6 months and then dropped out because I still hated school.   Because of my step mother, I got a job working on an assembly line for Polaroid making cameras. While on the line, I met an engineer who let me test the equipment he built.  This led to being a mechanic for 2 years.    At this point I knew what I wanted to build machines and more importantly, because Title IX had been passed, most engineering schools had to accept women students.  I was the 1st woman student accepted as a mechanical engineering student at Northeastern University in decades.  I graduated from Northeastern and I loved it because I was studying something I liked.
  • Preparation for career (education and other life experiences): I, and most of the other women mechanical engineers of my age that I have met, got into engineering through fashion and sewing.  First because sewing machines are very technical and require a mechanical mind to keep them going.  And second, because designing clothes is not very different from designing machines.  You need to think up an idea, you have constraints to work around, you have to make whatever you designed, you have to fix your mistakes, and finally you have to live with what you made. My many jobs before going to college as a mechanic and working on assembly lines has made it easy for me to understand what makes a machine easy to fix or difficult to use.
  • Advice:  Never say “I can’t”.  Instead say something like “I don’t want to” or “I can’t yet”.   When I was 10 years old I refused to watch the moon landing because I said “they would never let girls go to the moon”.  Sally Ride, the 1st women in space, was born only 18 days after me.  If I hadn’t been so negative I could have gone to space with her.  Because of that lesson I got my Mech E degree when women usually didn’t.  I have owned my own engineering firm.  I have lived in England, bicycled from San Diego to Denver when I was 49 years old.  I have a collection of 100 or so antique party dresses dating from 1867 to 1938.   And, I am now trying to start a new business making furniture.
  • Influences: My grandmother.  She grew up on a farm and during the time when women were fighting for the right to vote.  It seemed to me that she could do anything and everything.  In the 1920’s, she made silk shirts for Chicago gangsters and flapper dresses for gangster’s girlfriends.  She helped design and build early airplanes.  She did demonstration ball room dancing at the Parker House Hotel.  In the depression, as a single Mom, she hunted birds, fished and raised chickens during the day and wrote poetry and tatted lace in the evenings..




bio-willis.jpgHelena Willis, Director of Engineering, Boys Toys, Hasbro, Inc.

Oversee product development and project planning for the boys’ toy division including cost estimating, tooling, quality adherence and reliability. 

Engineering internship at Johnson Controls became her first job after graduation as a manufacturing engineer.

Joined Kenner Toys as a design engineer, which was subsequently purchased by Hasbro.

B.S. and M.S. in Microbiology, University of  Kentucky
B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, University of  Kentucky

  • Role in Company (Title):  Director of Engineering, Boys Toys
  • Job description:  Oversee product development project planning for an assigned brand/division to include schedule adherence, product cost estimating, tooling, budgeting, quality adherence and reliability.  Responsible for estimating and monitoring an engineering budget against foreseen and unforeseen product mixes; as well as controlling internal and external expenditures as project deadlines shift.   Manage internal and external working relationships with all interrelated business partners to ensure timely quality product development.
  • Career Journey:  Began with an engineering internship at Johnson controls, Inc while working on engineering degree, followed by 5 years as a mfg eng. at the same company.  Joined Kenner toys in 1988 as a design engineer and rose through the engineering ranks to my current position at Hasbro (Kenner was purchased by Hasbro). 
  • Favorite part of career:   The fast pace of working for a toy company. 
  • Challenges you’ve overcome:  Being a woman engineer in the 1980’s was still relatively new and I often felt I had to go the extra step to prove myself.  Despite strong skills in math and science, I was never encouraged to go into engineering or technical fields while in high school.
  • Preparation for career (education and other life experiences):  BS and MS in Microbiology  followed by return to college to pursue Engineering degree.  BS in Mechanical Engineering.
  • Advice:  Develop strong communication skills. 
  • Influences:  My dad encouraged me to work on my car, use tools and build things.





Mary Edwards, Product Engineering and Government Program Manager, Corning, Inc.

Supervise product engineering for Advanced Products

Career: Chemical engineer with Corning Glass Works.

  • What I do:  I supervise product engineering for our Advanced Products business, where engineers interface between our customers and our manufacturing facility to define product specifications.  The products I am responsible for are glass mirror blanks, used in lots of different types of telescopes.  Several program managers also work for me, and I help make sure all of our large projects go smoothly and meet our customer requirements.  I also support our manufacturing department, given my experience in process engineering and manufacturing technologies used within our business.  I spend quite a bit of my time working directly with customers.  Sometimes I attend technical conferences and present papers I have written to large audiences.
  • Career Journey:  I began my career as a chemical engineer with Corning Glass Works.  They had a factory near my college that didn’t make dishes; they made specialty products, including windows for the Space Shuttle and telescope mirrors for some of the world’s biggest observatories.  The glass-making process I saw during my job interview was intriguing.  Our glass is the purest, and it is made from gases reacting in a hot furnace, not from melting sand as in traditional glassmaking.  There were obvious chemical aspects to the process, and it seemed like there was a little “black magic” to it as well.  This sounded more interesting to me than working in a big chemical processing plant.  Little did I know I would likely spend my whole career at this one manufacturing facility.  I have been with Corning now for 25 years.  I have worked as a process engineer in the glass forming area, was a shift supervisor for that department, moved into Quality Assurance where I learned about our other products, and then I took a job as a product engineer in our mirror-making business.  For the last 15 years I have worked in this area, including four years where I managed the production department.
  • Likes/Dislikes about career:  My top three “likes” about my career are the leading-edge technologies we use, being part of the science that explores and strives to explain the universe, and the places in the world I have been able to experience as I traveled to visit potential customers or see our mirrors in mountain-top observatories.  I have been to France, Sweden, Germany, Spain, and Japan, as well as many U.S. states.  Probably my favorite is Hawaii, as I helped make two giant telescope mirrors that are located on the summit of Mauna Kea, and I have had the opportunity to visit them several times.  About the only “dislike” I have is that the balance between my career and my personal life has not always been easy, but it is manageable.  Some times you have to sacrifice one a little for the other, but in the end, both are very fulfilling and satisfying.  I am very proud that I am able to give fully to both, and hope my daughter will be a stronger, more independent, and productive person when she enters the workplace, having seen me enjoy my job and career.


  • Preparation for career:  I enjoyed math and science when I was in high school.  I decided to attend Clarkson University as a math major, but in my freshman year I switched to Chemical Engineering.  There were only a few girls in my classes; Clarkson was an engineering and technology college, and predominantly male.  I applied at many companies upon graduation, and chose to start my career at Corning. 


  • Advice:  I would advise students to study hard, but just as important, take time for other activities, whether your interests lie in music, sports, community service, art, theater, or something else.  Being a part of a team or a club will give you a chance to interact with others, develop communication skills, learn to manage your time, as well as just to relax!  Take advantage of opportunities to job shadow different vocations, to get an idea of what different jobs are like, and talk to people you know about their work.


  • Influences:  My mother was a big influence in my pursuit of a technical career.  She worked in a bank, and progressed from a teller to a loan officer, back in the days when there were few woman managers.  She always supported me and had confidence in me.  She had high expectations and hopes for me, which helped me to work hard to show her what I could accomplish.




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