Social Impact

Karen Panetta

2011 Winner of the Social Impact ABIE Award

Karen Panetta is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Tufts University. She has been nationally recognized for her outreach efforts to promote engineering and science careers to young women, Nerd Girls. She is Director of the Simulation Research Laboratory at Tufts, and her research interests include the development of image processing algorithms for enhancement and security, simulation, behavioral modeling and reliability analysis for multi-level systems including embedded processors and MEMS components.

Karen received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Boston University. She joined Digital Equipment Corporation and obtained an MS and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University. In 1995, she became a visiting professor at Tufts University. She was named a NASA Langley Research Fellow in 1996 and won five NASA Excellence Awards. She co-founded the first Tufts University School of Engineering start-up company, BA Logix, Inc., in 2007. In 2009, Karen was the first and only woman to be promoted to Full Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

Karen founded the Nerd Girls program at Tufts in 2000 to encourage young women to pursue engineering and science careers. The Nerd Girls team has been spotlighted on the TODAY Show,, the Boston Globe, Newsweek, The IEEE Institute, and ASEE Prism Magazine.

Karen has conducted engineering outreach to over 30,000 children, parents, and educators. From 2007 to 2009, she was Wordwide Director of IEEE Women in Engineering. She is chair of the IEEE Boston Section and the IEEE Education Society for Central New England.

Karen has received numerous awards, including the 2010 Norm Augustine Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies. She was named an IEEE Fellow in 2008. She has received several NASA and National Science Foundation Research Grants, including the NSF CAREER Award. For her outreach work, she was honored with the “Be The Change”Award from the Massachusetts Conference of Women, as well as the Galaxy Award for Outstanding Mentoring and Leadership from the Science Club for Girls.