by Allison Kleber

Karen Panetta (ENG’85) has dedicated her professional life to engineering for positive impact, and advancing opportunities for women in STEM. Panetta, now a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dean of Graduate Education at the Tufts University School of Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the highest distinctions in engineering “for leadership empowering females in STEM, and for contributions to computer vision and simulation algorithms.”

Panetta’s advocacy work includes Nerd Girls, a program she founded in 2002 for mentoring and empowering women in STEM, and for combating negative stereotypes that impact them; she also co-authored Count Girls In, a guide to encouraging young girls to pursue an interest in STEM, aimed at their parents. She has been deeply involved in IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE), serving as Worldwide Director from 2007-2009 and as founder/Editor-in-Chief of IEEE WIE Magazine. She also advises the Tufts University student chapters of IEEE and SWE (the Society of Women Engineers). Among her research projects, she has developed an image recognition database to uncover bias in AI and ML applications, and works on AI software for medical diagnostics and robotic vision for applications such as underwater search and rescue and animal conservation. 

A Fellow of IEEE, the APAIA (Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association), and NAI (National Academy of Inventors), Panetta is the recipient of a BU College of Engineering’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Service to Community (2006), a IEEE Award for Distinguished Ethical Practices (2013), and a Presidential Award for Science and Engineering Education and Mentoring (2011). In short, her legacy is the very embodiment of the Boston University College of Engineering’s values, as a true societal engineer.