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Buckeye women come together to close the gender gap

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In a world where engineers are asked to solve increasingly complex problems, a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical. And yet women remain underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, accounting for just 27% of STEM-related careers (2021 U.S. Census Bureau).

To help close the gender gap, a group of alumnae from the College of Engineering joined forces to form Buckeye Engineering Women in Executive Leadership (BEWEL), an allied community who advocate for women in the college and encourage their growth as leaders who shape the world.

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly and Karen Dannemiller Ohio State University College of Engineering
Associate Professor Katelyn Swindle-Reilly (right) and Associate Professor Karen Dannemiller

In 2019, they established the BEWEL Leadership in Innovation Award to recognize junior or mid-career female faculty members who demonstrate outstanding leadership in research, innovation and scholarship.

“The presence of accomplished, supportive faculty is essential in the recruitment and ultimate success of women engineering students, and we believe these vital role models should be recognized and celebrated for their efforts,” said Lisa McCauley ’79, president of BEWEL.

The award honors individuals whose actions support BEWEL’s vision of The Ohio State University becoming the destination of choice for women in engineering—students and faculty alike, she added.

In 2023, the award was presented to Katelyn Swindle-Reilly, an associate professor of biomedical and chemical engineering. Since joining Ohio State in 2016, Swindle-Reilly has been designing polymeric biomaterials for soft tissue repair and drug delivery with focused applications in ophthalmology and wound healing. Her ultimate goal is to develop new treatments to help patients struggling with vision loss.

“I’m truly honored to receive this award and for the recognition of my efforts in this area,” she said. “I think it is important to recognize accomplishments of female faculty, especially because we remain underrepresented in engineering.”

Swindle-Reilly said the gender gap is even more evident in leadership positions and entrepreneurial areas, noting that during a recent conference, she was one of only two women presenters.

Currently she is working to address age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the third leading cause of blindness and presently has no cure.

Damaging the retina and the back of the eye, AMD can cause permanent vision loss and inhibit reading, driving and other daily activities. One available treatment that helps patients with AMD maintain vision requires an expensive intravitreal injection directly into the eye up to 12 times per year for the rest of their lives.

After learning about the burden these injections cause for patients from an Ohio State ophthalmologist, Swindle-Reilly developed an extended-release capsule that has the potential to reduce the timing of injections to just once or twice a year.

Her technology has been licensed by Vitranu, a startup focused on applying it to AMD treatments. Swindle-Reilly is chief technology officer for the company, which aims to begin clinical trials at the end of 2024, with expected FDA approval in 2027.

“Dr. Swindle-Reilly epitomizes leadership in innovation, in her technological advancements and significant efforts to build cross-disciplinary bridges within the university and in her mentoring and coaching of students and peers to advance innovation and commercialization at Ohio State,” said McCauley.

Faculty members chosen to receive the BEWEL award are provided funding to extend and expand their impact. They are also invited to leverage the BEWEL network to further their research agendas and careers, creating a cyclical culture of mentorship and collaboration.

Asimina Kiourti and Hongping Zhao Ohio State University College of Engineering
Associate Professor Asimina Kiourti (left) and Professor Hongping Zhao

“This recognition has helped to validate that I am on the right path and motivates me to continue my entrepreneurial efforts in teaching and research at the university,” said Swindle-Reilly. “I hope to mentor and support others in this space throughout my career.”

Previous Award Winners

The 2022 recipient was Hongping Zhao, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and materials science and engineering. She was recognized for her research in wide and ultrawide bandgap semiconductors and significant contributions to the fields of power electronics and optoelectronics. Zhao supports and engages women in engineering through her teaching, research and mentoring at Ohio State, and more broadly through such work as serving as a special issue editor for the upcoming Photonics journal’s special issue on women.

In 2021, Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Asimina Kiourti received the BEWEL award for her transformational research in wearable and implantable sensor technology that could provide major health benefits, improving and prolonging lives. Her efforts outside the lab and the classroom are equally impressive, and of special note is her creativity in developing TechnoFashion, a year-long, hands-on outreach program that inspires middle school girls’ interest in science and technology.

The award’s inaugural recipient in 2020 was Associate Professor Karen Dannemiller, who holds a joint appointment in civil, environmental and geodetic engineering and environmental health sciences. Her research on the indoor environment has yielded important innovations in the understanding of the indoor microbiome and the development of novel techniques to characterize public health exposure. She demonstrates excellence in leadership and mentorship through her many activities across disciplines at Ohio State and her outreach to the community at large through podcasts, YouTube videos and even an article in Architectural Digest

This article originally appeared in Forward 2022-23, the college’s annual philanthropy report. Read the full issue.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu

 

Categories: AwardsAlumni

BEWEL members with affiliations to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Lee Ann Cochran

BS MSE '03

Bonnie Hammersley

BS Ceramic Engineering '79

Mary Juhas
PhD MSE '89

Professor Emeritus in MSE