Transforming Your STEM Career Founder & CEO, Dr. Professor Pamela McCauley is no stranger to breaking barriers, but even she was surprised when she was named the 2019 Technologist of the Year by Women of Color in Technology Magazine published by Career Communications Group (CCG).
Career Communications Groups organizes a national Women of Color in STEM conference and each year selects a recipient of this pinnacle award. But this year is the first time an academic has been given this title in the organization’s history.
Dr. Victor McCrary, a member of the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board, nominated Dr. McCauley for the Technologist of the Year Award. “This award is one of the greatest honors I’ve received in my entire career.” McCauley said. “I’ve been engaged in this community for over 30 years and the fact that this is the first time a professor is recognized as the Technologist of the Year, is significant to me. It provides tangible evidence that pursuing your passion ultimately leads to success.”
McCauley is also a full Professor at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Director of the Ergonomics Laboratory in UCF’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems at UCF. She is the author of an internationally used Ergonomics textbook and has obtained grants and has published extensively in ergonomics, biomechanics, fuzzy set theory, and artificial intelligence. One of her key areas of study is how to design systems, processes and technology for optimal use by humans. One of her many projects that have had a lasting impact is the way she and her team studied and suggested modifications to promote efficiency and innovation in the HIV/AIDS Healthcare service delivery process in Africa in 2016.
“Many people don’t generally understand the power of a small innovative change and what kind of impact it can have on the world,” she said. “That’s what engineering is all about and that’s why I’ll do whatever it takes to support those interested in pursuing STEM careers.”
McCauley is quick to point out that she went from being a struggling college student and single Mom on welfare to a successful career as an engineer by obtaining her first degree in engineering from the University of Oklahoma. “STEM Careers represent a proven pathway out of poverty and into prosperity.” says McCauley. “I’m living proof.”
McCauley’s passion has translated into breaking barriers. She made history when she received her doctorate in 1993 as the first African American woman to earn a doctorate in Engineering in Oklahoma. She even got the National Science Foundation to foot most of the bill obtaining a prestigious $90,000 graduate fellowship after earning her bachelor’s degree. Since then she’s worked in academia, industry and government agencies. She worked with and conducted research for the World Bank, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Security Agency, UCF and NSF.
She currently serves as a Program Director for NSF’s I-Corps Program in the Computer Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE). The I-Corps program was designed as an innovative approach for academic researchers to transition discoveries from the lab to the marketplace.
“I’m not just a Program Director for I-Corps, I’m a major fan and believer in this program because it is a powerful process that is proven effective in moving ideas from the academic environment into useful innovations and ultimately, successful businesses,” she said; “and these innovative solutions must be globally focused. We are a global community.”
McCauley leads the CISE I-Corps Program from her NSF office in the Washington DC area and continues to advise her five graduate students in the UCF Industrial Engineering department through telecommuting and in monthly visits to the campus.
“My students’ success is extremely important to me,” she said. “My students are why I’ve stayed in academia. I take my responsibility to educate, inspire and support the next generation of engineers very seriously. I couldn’t have achieved my career goals without people supporting me and inspiring me. This includes the tremendous guidance I gained from excellent mentors. That’s why I’m here.”
McCauley believes that a STEM career is an outstanding and available path from poverty to prosperity for many young women or men. She feels like she’s on a lifelong campaign to create awareness and access to STEM careers and remains dedicated to supporting those, particularly women and under-represented minorities, who desire a STEM career.