STEM

Meet Frances Arnold, Teenage Rebel Turned Nobel Laureate

At 15, she was a class-skipping, catch-me-if-you-can maverick hitchhiking to D.C. to protest the Vietnam War. Looking back on those years now, Frances Arnold says, “Fifteen is one of those terrifying ages, where you’re frustrated because you know something’s wrong, but you have no idea how to fix it. So I did what I could, which is protest.

“But as I’ve gone through my life,” she continues, “I know that it’s my responsibility to fix it. I’m much better at fixing things than protesting.”

She pauses.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

Diversity, Not Drama: Q&A With UC Davis’s Chancellor Gary May

Gary S. May became the seventh chancellor of University of California, Davis last year—and the first African-American chancellor in the school’s history. May, who received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley in 1991, had served as the dean of the College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology prior to coming to UC Davis.

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

A Life And Career By Design: Qualcomm Exec Paul Jacobs

At an age when most boys are learning to throw a curveball and struggling with elementary algebra, Paul Jacobs was writing code. Simple code, to be sure, but code good enough to let him play the video game Adventure with his dad on a clunky, early laptop.

It’s no surprise that Jacobs, who was in sixth or seventh grade when he wrote his first programs, grew up to be an engineer.

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

Alumni Gazette: Rocket Science, Woman Power, and Updating The League

Ever hear that old cliché “This ain’t rocket science?” I wouldn’t use it around Ashley Chandler Karp because what she does is rocket science. A propulsion engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, she’s helping design the next generation of rockets, which will bring samples from Mars back to Earth for more extensive testing than can be done on the Martian surface.

As if that weren’t ambitious enough, they also have to figure out a way to transport the stuff here without getting any contamination from the Red Planet on the container.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Engineering Sisters Design, Ship Bargain Bots to Engage Diverse Kids—Especially Girls

The two robots spin and lurch, their little electric motors whirring against each other as a bevy of kids look on, their eyes bulging and their shoulders scrunched almost up to their ears in rapt attention. A girl of about 12 with long black hair scratches her chin, smiling nervously—a smile that twists into a grimace as her robot battles too near the edge of the circular table. She talks to her robot, goads it on, giggles. When that fails, she resorts to body English, rapping her right hand against her hip three times.

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