Professors in engineering, computer science
A year ago, Loyola announced its receipt of a $500,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Clare Boothe Luce Program, a grant to support the addition of two female, tenure-track faculty members in computer science and engineering. Today, these promising professors are teaching Loyola students, advancing scholarship, and supporting the University in its efforts to strengthen all of its programs in the natural sciences.
Raenita Fenner, Ph.D., assistant professor of engineering, earned her doctorate in electrical engineering at Michigan State University. A graduate of Baltimore’s Morgan State University who grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Fenner welcomed the chance to return to her home state. The opportunity to work for a university with a focus on both teaching and research proved too good to pass up.
“Education’s always been a big part of my life,” says Fenner. “My parents were grade school principals. I was really attracted to Loyola because it places a big emphasis on teaching, but there’s still a push to do research.”
Fenner’s research is in electromagnetics, and her dissertation focused on error analysis of different methods used to determine the electrical properties of different materials. At present, Loyola’s engineering program doesn’t offer a specific course in the field. “I’m excited about the potential there might be to develop one,” she says.
She’s also eager to include an emphasis on technical writing in her courses. “The style of writing you need to do at the higher levels in engineering and the sciences is different from what they teach in English classes,” she says. “A lot of times, I feel that style isn’t introduced until graduate school, and then you’re forced to learn fast. The same goes with mathematics. There is a gap between undergraduate mathematics and what’s needed for graduate-level work in engineering. I’m interested in helping students find ways to bridge that gap so they’re not struggling at the graduate level.”
Megan Olsen, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science, joins Loyola from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she earned her doctorate. Olsen’s specialty is in artificial intelligence and applying it to interdisciplinary problems. Specifically, she uses computer models to represent how complex systems operate in nature—think the growth of cancer cells or bird flight patterns— with the goal of increasing our understanding of what happens in biology. She also works to design better computer systems inspired by how natural systems respond to faults and errors.
“I was really excited about coming to Loyola,” says Olsen, who is originally from Virginia. “It’s a great area of the country to be in, and I love the focus on undergraduate education. I also appreciate the opportunity I have to teach and interact with graduate students through Loyola’s computer science graduate program. One of the aspects that really set Loyola apart from other institutions is that it not only has strong support to increase our success as educators, it also has resources to support research and is proactive about doing so.”
Both are delighted to join Loyola through a program dedicated to women in the sciences.
“I’ve always been very involved in trying to get girls into computing,” says Olsen. “It’s great to see that Loyola is committed to addressing problems that exist in the field.”
“For me, that was one of the most exciting aspects of the position," she says. "The grant and our addition to the faculty show that Loyola truly has a commitment to encouraging women in the sciences.”