A trailblazer for women in engineering, Irene Peden was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in engineering from Stanford and was the first woman hired by the UW College of Engineering in 1962. Peden is one of only two UW ECE faculty admitted into the National Academy of Engineering in the past 100 years. She is known for her pioneering work and leadership in engineering education in antennas, radio wave propagation and contributions to radio science in the polar regions. Peden is also the first woman engineer/scientist to conduct field work in the interior of the Antarctic continent as a principal investigator, which she accomplished in 1970.
Peden was honored with the 2018 Diamond Award for Distinguished Service. The Diamond Award is recognized as the UW College of Engineering’s highest alumni award.
“A lot was riding on Peden’s work beyond developing a new tool to probe the icy subsurface of Antarctica. Although the National Science Foundation (NSF) was supportive of Peden’s work, the Navy was still hesitant to bring women to the southern continent. Peden was unofficially told before she departed that if she did not complete her experiment and publish the results, another woman wouldn’t be allowed to follow in her footsteps for at least a generation.”
–Kristen Pope, Smithsonian