At the start of her engineering career in 1962, Irene Peden had already broken barriers as the first woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Irene joined the UW College of Engineering as its first female faculty member at a time when female engineering academics were rare. She became one of the College’s most well-known and respected engineers, spending her career helping others succeed by serving as a mentor and role model, and working to expand pre-college engineering education. Irene opened doors for female engineers to succeed on campus; today, the UW is a national leader with the highest percentage of women faculty in the top 25 U.S. colleges of engineering.
Irene fought for equal opportunities in her work and her research. She became the first female engineer to conduct fieldwork in the interior of the Antarctic, studying radio propagation in polar environments. At the UW, Irene served as associate chair of EE and associate dean of the College. She was dedicated to her students and peer faculty members, even inviting new faculty members to stay at her home while they looked for housing. She offered workshops on successful proposal writing for the National Science Foundation, widening her impact. The Irene C. Peden Fellowship was created in her name, and provides tuition, stipend and fees to female Ph.D. students in UW EE, who are underrepresented to this day.
Irene understood the importance of early education in engineering to widen the pipeline of engineering students. At the University of Colorado, where she graduated with her B.S., she supported its first K-12 engineering education outreach program; she also funded an undergraduate engineering scholarship at the institution.
She has received numerous awards, including the IEEE Antenna Society’s “Man of the Year” award, honorary doctorates from Michigan State University and Southern Methodist University, and election to the National Academy of Engineering.
More about Irene
Orignally posted on the University of Washington College of Engineering site. Video produced by the College of Engineering.