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Society of Women Engineers Honors Pieronek

Nina Welding • DATE: November 6, 2014

Catherine F. Pieronek, associate dean for academic affairs and director of the Women’s Engineering Program in the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, was named a fellow of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at the society’s annual conference in Los Angeles last month. Pieronek was cited for her dedication to the SWE mission, for a lasting and positive impact on engineering education, and for illuminating public discourse on gender equity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Pieronek, a Notre Dame alumna, joined the College of Engineering in 2002 in order to establish the Women’s Engineering Program and address the low retention rate of women from the first through sophomore years. Her initial impact and program initiatives led to a 25 percentage point improvement in the retention rate of female students, on par with the retention rate of male engineering students. The number of admitted engineering women choosing to study engineering at the University also increased to 33%, which is almost twice the national average. In addition, membership in the SWE Notre Dame Collegiate Section increased from a handful of women to more than 100 active members.

Her research interests focus on engineering education, particularly, on issues that affect the persistence of women in engineering. She has published and presented peer-reviewed papers on various aspects of her research at conferences sponsored by SWE, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), Women in Engineering ProActive Network, Frontiers in Education, and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Also a lawyer, Pieronek incorporates her law background in her research by addressing issues of gender equity and Title IX in engineering education. Her work in this area has led to several published papers in refereed law journals, and to her appearance on a number of television shows, including a Massachusetts School of Law program that won a silver Telly Award for outstanding cable television programming and a Davey Award for creative excellence by smaller television production companies.

In addition to her participation in SWE, Pieronek is a senior member of the AIAA, as well as a member of the ASEE and the Women Engineering Program Advocates Network.

Pieronek graduated from the University with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1984. She earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1987 and a law degree from Notre Dame in 1995. Prior to joining the College of Engineering, she served as director of law school relations at the University and as a senior systems engineer at TRW Space & Defense Sector in Redondo Beach, Calif., where she worked on the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.