Tufts University congratulates Karen Panetta

Dean Karen Panetta and MS student Jessica Nordlund

Tufts University celebrates the induction to the National Academy of Engineering of Karen Panetta, Dean of Graduate Education, and Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Mechanical Engineering.

Congratulations to Dean Panetta! As we celebrate, we're looking back at her trailblazing efforts to support women in STEM and her outstanding research contributions within the field of electrical and computer engineering.

Championing women in STEM

Panetta first joined Tufts in 1994 after a professional career as a computer architect. She became the first female professor to receive tenure in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She is now Dean of Graduate Education for the School of Engineering and a professor of electrical and computer engineering with secondary appointments in computer science and mechanical engineering.

She is a tireless advocate for women in STEM at all ages and levels, from young girls to college-aged women and professionals. Panetta founded Nerd Girls, a program committed to empowering female engineering students and challenging myths and stereotypes about women in engineering professions. She is also the co-author of Count Girls In, a book encouraging parents to nurture STEM skills in their young daughters.

She has been involved with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Women in Engineering for over a decade, serving as the worldwide director of the organization from 2007-2009. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of the award-winning IEEE Women in Engineering Magazine. She also fosters community among women engineers as the advisor to the Tufts student chapters of IEEE and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

Developing tools that benefit society

Panetta focuses her leadership and engineering skills to improve computer vision and simulation algorithms. She has advised world leaders and led humanitarian projects around the globe to change lives, help communities thrive, and protect the environment.

Her research includes developing software that uses artificial intelligence to enhance robotic vision, for applications such as underwater search-and-rescue and animal conservation. She has also developed an image recognition database that helps reveal bias in artificial intelligence and machine learning applications.

Panetta's efforts in artificial intelligence and computer vision have also led to improved medical diagnostics. Panetta and her team of graduate students have taught artificial intelligence systems to scan medical images and to identity areas that require greater attention. Their work has assisted medical professionals in spotting areas of interest within dental scans, signs of cancer within mammograms, and distinguishing between pneumonia and pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

Global recognition

Panetta has earned numerous awards and honors in recognition of her innovative work. She has received the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, the 2013 IEEE Award for Distinguished Ethical Practices, and grants from funding agencies like NASA and the NSF. She is a Fellow of notable organizations including IEEE, the Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association (AAIA), and the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). President Barack Obama awarded her a Presidential Award for Science and Engineering Education and Mentoring. In 2022, Panetta was inducted to the National Academy of Inventors, the first woman from Tufts University to earn that honor.