100 Ways: Public Service


Published May 15, 2019 10:24 AM

Star Power

Women in STEM

By some accounts, less than one-third of the world’s scientists are women. Women are less likely to enter and more likely to leave STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math. But not astronomer Andrea Ghez.

As a kid, Ghez wanted to be a ballet dancer. But when her parents brought home a telescope, she began studying the night stars, and her career was born.

The W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii houses the two largest telescopes in the world. The place where the laser beams converge is the center of our Milky Way galaxy, where a “supermassive” black hole is located.

Since joining UCLA’s faculty in 1994, Ghez has become a superstar after proving the existence of a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

A MacArthur “Genius” grant winner and the first woman to win the Crafoord Prize from the Crafoord Foundation and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Ghez inspires women in sciences. “It’s been a priority to bust that concept that it’s not just boys who do science. UCLA is a great environment [that] encourages young girls to understand that this is a playground that they can come play in.” About a third of the scientists at the Galactic Center Group Ghez founded are female.

Alongside Ghez, UCLA’s female STEM influencers include Jayathi Murthy, UCLA’s first female engineering dean; Engineering Professor Ann Karagozian ’78, the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Caltech; and Physics and Astronomy Professor Smadar Naoz, who serves on the Physical Sciences Diversity Committee. UCLA STEM students have formed Women Advancing Technology Through Teamwork, which hosts “tinkering workshops.”

And off campus, Diana Skaar ’00, M.S./M.B.A. ’08, in charge of business development for Google’s “X” lab, aims to impact the next generation of female scientists as a member of Cartoon Network’s STEAM Advisory Board.

Hooked on Technology

Henry Samueli and Broadcam

Henry Samueli ’75, M.S. ’76, PH.D. ’80 found his calling in a 7th-grade shop class. The teacher had assigned the class a standard electronics project — to build a rudimentary crystal radio receiver — but while paging through a catalog, a more sophisticated DIY Heathkit radio kit caught Samueli’s attention. He convinced his teacher to let him attempt to build the more challenging radio instead.

“At the end of the semester, I plugged it in and music came out,” he says. “That hit me right there. The fact that this pile of parts that I knew nothing about, that I could put together, solder wires together and sound comes out magically from the thing, it hooked me. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be an electrical engineer, because I was determined to figure out how that radio worked.”

Samueli went on to earn a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from UCLA, and in 1985, he became a professor of electrical engineering at his alma mater. In 1991, Samueli and his first Ph.D. student, Henry Nicholas ’82, M.S. ’85, Ph.D. ’98, co-founded Broadcom, a semiconductor company that makes technology for wireless and broadband communications.

According to PC Magazine, “He changed the way we connected to the Internet, inventing the single-chip cable modem, which provided 50 megabits per second, or 1,000 times faster than the 56k dial-up available at the time.” Samueli is a named inventor in 75 U.S. patents, and Broadcom remains responsible for much of the technology that powers smartphones and other mobile devices that are so essential to modern life.