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Sarah Kate Wilson Receives Prestigious IEEE Award

Electrical Engineering Professor Sarah Kate Wilson was recently honored with the prestigious Harriett B. Rigas Award for significant contributions to engineering education. Read more about this defender of student learning, champion of diversity and inclusion, acclaimed international researcher, and professional activist.

Congratulations to electrical engineering Professor Sarah Kate (Katie) Wilson, who was recently named recipient of the IEEE Education Society’s Harriett B. Rigas Award, recognizing outstanding electrical/computer engineering faculty women for contributions to engineering education “through excellence in teaching, encouraging and supporting increased participation of women in electrical/computer engineering, demonstrated scholarship/research, development of educational technology which enhances student learning, and/or service to the engineering profession.” Colleagues and students alike agree Wilson checks all these boxes!

Defender of student learning
Since joining the Department of Electrical Engineering in 2006, Wilson has earned consistently high teaching evaluations from students for her excellence in teaching, mentoring, and personal attention. She has taught more than five undergraduate and nine different graduate courses. Along the way, she has been a leader in improving the curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate programs—constantly striving to make course material accessible to students through fun, innovative, and relevant teaching practices. Faced with her undergraduate students’ resistance to learning the complex mathematical methods required in their curricula, she helped develop an introductory course that takes students out to local Silicon Valley companies where they see first-hand how their assignments in topics like the Fourier transform are put to use in creating real products. At the other end of the spectrum, she has successfully supervised a number of doctorate and master’s degree students—not just at SCU, but with colleagues from around the world with whom she collaborates on cutting-edge research projects.

Champion of diversity and inclusion
Addressing students’ reported issues of bias against women and underrepresented minorities, Wilson and computer engineering Professor and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs Ruth Davis led an effort to improve the climate at Santa Clara. Together, they organized ongoing bias-busting workshops, co-authored a paper titled “Diversity and Inclusion: A Collaboration with the Students,” and instituted changes in recruitment of both faculty and students to bring about a more diverse population. Wilson is also heralded for relentlessly promoting engineering among young women. She is a fierce advocate for recruiting women into the major, and once they are in she encourages them to become active in their professional societies. Leading by example, she founded and helped organize the first IEEE Women’s Workshop on Communications and Signal Processing, an exchange of technical ideas and networking opportunities critical to career success, particularly for young women. Established in 2012, this workshop has continued every two years, offering unparalleled chances for professional development and career advancement for the next generation of female researchers in this field.

Acclaimed international researcher
Published in IEEE’s most prestigious journals and conferences, Wilson is a pioneer in the field of orthogonal frequency division multiplexing in both wireless and wireline communications. Her influential publications have been cited over 6,000 times. In recognition of her contributions to orthogonal frequency multiplexing, Wilson was made a fellow of the IEEE in 2014.

Active supporter of her profession
Wilson gives her time generously in support of her field’s professional organizations, serving IEEE and the IEEE Communications Society in numerous capacities, including editorships of several journals; she was the first woman to hold the positions of director of journals and vice president of publications. These and other efforts led to her receiving the 2017 Joseph LoCicero Award “for sustained and innovative contributions to publications.” Additionally, she and colleague Andrea Goldsmith served as general chairs of the IEEE Wireless Communications and Networking Conference (WCNC ’17). They were the first women to lead such a large conference—over 1,000 registrants—and their efforts were recognized when WCNC ’17 was selected as the iCon recognition recipient for numerous best practices and achieved success in multiple dimensions, from a field of more than 1,600 conferences. Wilson’s dedication to student learning, her encouragement of women in engineering, and her unflagging efforts toward the advancement of her profession through involvement with IEEE societies made her a stand-out for the Harriett B. Rigas Award. Of course, she’s also a valued colleague and teacher here at SCU. “I’m honored to receive this award from the IEEE Education Society,” Wilson said. “I want to thank all the men and women who mentored me along the way and Santa Clara University for allowing me to do what I love: teach, research, and mentor.”

Awards, Engineering, Faculty

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