Forbes Magazine released its inaugural list of America’s Top 50 Women in Tech, naming two Brown Engineering graduates among its three generations of forward-thinking technologists leading more than a dozen tech sectors across the globe. Ayanna Howard ’93 (electrical engineering) and Mary Lou Jepsen ’87, Ph.D. ’97 (electrical engineering and art studio, optics) joined Brown graduate danah boyd ’01 on the list.
As a roboticist, educator and entrepreneur, Ayanna Howard is focused on human-robot interaction, learning and autonomous control. As Chair of the School of Interactive Computing and Director of the Human-Automation Systems Lab at Georgia Tech, she is also leading the next generation of roboticists. Her company, Georgia Tech spin-off Zyrobotics builds mobile therapy and educational products for children with differing needs based on Howard’s research. In her career, Howard has developed a variety of robotic innovations, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s SnoMote robots, which are used for researching icy places like glaciers. She is the recipient of multiple prestigious awards, including the Computer Research Association’s A. Nico Habermann Award and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Lemelson Invention Ambassador, and has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers. Honored by Forbes as an innovator in robotics, she was a 2016 recipient of the Brown Engineering Alumni Medal. Howard earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.
Mary Lou Jepsen has been enamored with holograms since she saw Princess Leia’s message to Luke Skywalker as a kid watching "Star Wars." Her interest in learning how such sci-fi technology might work in the real world put her on a career path any technologist, entrepreneur or Jedi would envy. As well as launching three startups and the One Laptop Per Child non-profit, Jepsen led engineering teams at IBM, Google and Facebook, always working at the forefront of display technology. It wasn’t always easy for Jepsen - she survived a brain tumor diagnosed while was working on her doctorate in optical sciences. Inspired by that experience, Jepsen went on to create her latest company, Openwater, which aims to create an inexpensive, noninvasive medical imaging device using readily available parts from the consumer electronics supply chain, like camera and display chips. Jepsen says she’s raised over $28 million for her company so far and hopes to have a product out in the next year. A Brown Engineering Alumni Medalist in 2012, she recently returned to campus as the 2018 Dana M. Dourdeville Lecture in Service to Society speaker. Forbes tabbed her an innovator in consumer technology.