Four Women Scholars in STEM Fields Named to Head Their Academic Departments

Associate professor Christa Hestekin will serve as interim head of the Ralph E. Martin Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Arkansas. Dr. Hestekin started as an assistant professor at the university in August of 2006. In 2013, she rose to the rank of associate professor, and since 2017, Hestekin has served as associate department head for the graduate program in chemical engineering.

Dr. Hestekin is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Mary Frecker, who holds the Riess Chair in Engineering and is a professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Pennsylvania State University, has been named department head of the university department of mechanical engineering. She will assume her new role on August 15. In 2020, Professor Frecker established the Penn State Center for Biodevices and continues to serve as its inaugural director.

Dr. Freckler holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Dayton in Ohio. She earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan.

Rebecca Nugent was appointed head of the department of statistics & data science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Dr. Nugent joined the department in 2006 and currently serves as the Stephen E. and Joyce Fienberg Professor in Statistics & Data Science. She has served as associate department head since 2017 and director or co-director of undergraduate studies since 2016.

Professor Nugent received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, statistics, and Spanish from Rice University in Houston, Texas, and a master’s degree in statistics from Stanford University. She earned a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Washington.

Sarah Olson, professor of mathematical sciences in the School Arts & Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, was appointed interim head of the department. She is the first woman to lead the department in the university’s 156-year history. Dr. Olson joined the faculty in 2011. She served as graduate coordinator for mathematical sciences until December 2020. She also is a professor of bioinformatics & computational biology and a professor of biomedical engineering.

Dr. Olson is a graduate of Providence College in Rhode Island. She earned a master’s degree at the University of Rhode Island and a Ph.D. at North Carolina State University.

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