Dr. Cecelia Wigal, assistant dean in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and Professor of Engineering was named the recipient of the 2011 Supernova Award at the 2011 Odyssey Luncheon and Awards Ceremony: A Journey of the Rising Stars at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Soledad O’Brien, CNN Special Correspondent and award-winning author, presented the award to Wigal.
The Supernova Award was launched by the Young Women’s Leadership Academy Foundation to recognize the exceptional achievements of women working in the career fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in Hamilton County.
“During her professional career, Dr. Wigal has helped hundreds of students begin their career journeys in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Maxine Bailey, executive director of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy Foundation. “Dr. Wigal seeks out opportunities daily to inspire young women to pursue STEM career fields. Girls and young women in our community are fortunate to have such an outstanding educator, pioneer, and role model.”
Wigal was selected as the 2011 Supernova in recognition of her dedication to mentoring female STEM students and leading several educational programs that introduce middle and high school girls to the field of engineering. Wigal recently designed the first approved engineering curriculum for UTeach, a national STEM teacher-training model that is being implemented at UTC.
Additionally, Wigal guides teams of engineering students in the design of assistive technology devices for children with disabilities. (Read more about the work of these students here.)
Prior to joining UTC, she was employed for nine years in the aerospace industry.
Wigal was one of five Supernova Award finalists selected by an independent panel of judges, who faced the daunting task of reviewing applications from some of the best and brightest women employed in STEM fields within the county.
“When we decided to launch the Supernova Award we knew there was amazing STEM work being led by women in our community,” Bailey said. “But we had no idea of the powerful and inspirational stories we would see in the applications. I was personally inspired and moved to learn about the challenging journeys many of these women faced and how they have persevered and succeeded in their careers.”
Wigal holds the Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences from Northwestern University.
Four additional women at UTC were nominated for the award. As educators and researchers they inspire young women to pursue STEM careers, an indication of the important role of UTC and all higher education institutions in this worthwhile effort.