Engineers at UT win back-to-back educator awards
From: Austin American Statesman, September 23, 1997
A year after University of Texas engineer Linda Hayes won a national educator award, its 1997 version will be presented today to her mentor, UT engineer Mary Wheeler.
Wheeler, the first woman to hold an endowed chair in engineering at UT, will receive the Aerospace Educator Award in Washington, D.C. from Women in Aerospace. The 350 member professional group has members in industry, academia and government.
Wheeler is among nine female aerospace engineers receiving awards from the group today. The others are at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, including astronaut Elien Ochoa, and in industry.
Hayes, 49, won the award last year for her teaching, for research such as seeking ways to increase organ transplants by freezing vital organs for later use, and for 20 years of active advocacy for women in engineering.
"Linda was, in fact, Mary's student many years ago," said David Dolling, the engineer-chairman of the UT aerospace engineering department. "So it's sort of fitting, in a way. Mary certainly is a star."
Wheeler, 59, is being recognized, in part, for helping attract women such as Hayes into aerospace engineering. Dolling said Wheeler has also lured a number of women in the aerospace industry back to school for advanced degrees.
Hayes and Wheeler are the only two female faculty members in aerospace engineering at UT. Nineteen of the College of Engineering's 240 faculty are women, as are 15 percent to 20 percent of its students.
But Wheeler, who holds the Ernest and Virginia Cockrell Chair in Engineering, said female engineers are the future.
"The numbers of women graduating in engineering are increasing dramatically," Wheeler said. "So we will see much larger faculty numbers in the future."
In addition to teaching and research, Wheeler is an expert in computer modeling and is director of the UT Center for Subsurface Modeling. Among the center's projects is a cooperative effort with the Army Corps of Engineers to build a computer model of Chesapeake Bay, to analyze the effects of pesticide runoff and dredging.
Last year, the UT center Joined three Houston schools - Rice University, the University of Houston and Baylor College of Medicine - in helping build the next-generation Internet, called the very highspeed Backbone Network Service, or vBNS.
This year, UT became the fourth Texas player in research for the vBNS network which is expected to eventually make the Internet much faster and friendlier to multimedia.
Wheeler's center joined the re search early because she is a former Rice professor. As part of its effort on the new network, Rice is developing the software to let researchers at Baylor College of Medicine create a virtual-reality simulator to train surgeons. The simulator would be used in a University of Houston project called CAVE, which stands for computer aided virtual environment.
The CAVE is a 10-by-10-by-9-foot room in which projector screens on the walls and floor combine to create a virtual-reality illusion surrounding a viewer.
Wheeler's UT center aims to put computer models of environmental problems in Galveston Bay in the CAVE to gain a better understanding of the details. Sites &
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