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Valerie Taylor wins first young alumni award

By David Pescovitz

Valerie Taylor, Ph.D., EECS '91. Photo: David Joel

The winner of the College of Engineering's first ever "Outstanding Young Leader Award" has made a career of building bridges. However, the bridges Valerie Taylor (EECS ’91) creates are not feats of civil engineering but rather societal bridges across the "digital divide," the unfortunate disparity between technological haves and have-nots.

Taylor, now a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northwestern University, is respected for her research into techniques to analyze and improve the performance of parallel and distributed computing applications. While her work has impact on diverse scientific disciplines – from cosmology and molecular dynamics to high-energy physics – Taylor’s current passion is to apply the power of high-performance computing toward the betterment of education in the African-American community.

A founding member of the Institute of African-American E-culture, supported in part by the National Science Foundation, Taylor is developing methods to measure and improve the performance of distributed learning environments. These next-generation systems, Taylor believes, will be instrumental in the involvement of African-American communities in creating and using information technology.

"We’re working to analyze databases of different teaching styles and incorporate cultural aspects into the concepts that are taught," says Taylor, who also chairs the Coalition to Diversify Computing. As a child in Chicago, Taylor was encouraged to pursue the sciences by her engineer father. Now she hopes to provide the same inspiration to young people through public service and professional activities. Twice, Taylor has had a major involvement with the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference – a conference designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront.

Whether Taylor is tackling the Digital Divide through esoteric scientific research or traditional mentorship, her motivation defines the mindset of a leader: doing well by doing good. "I just want to give something back to my community," she says.

Joining Taylor on the DEAA recipient platform at the November dinner will be George Leitmann, Ph.D. ME ’56, Robert S. Pepper, B.S. EE ’57, M.S. EE ’58, Ph.D. EE ’61, and Theodore Van Zelst, B.S. CE ’44.

Author David Pescovitz is a frequent contributor to Forefront and editor of the College's on-line publication Lab Notes.


FOREFRONT reports on activities in the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. It features developments of interest to the engineering and scientific communities and to alumni and friends of the College.

Published three times a year by the Engineering Public Affairs Office. Have a comment about Forefront? E-mail your letter to the editor. Click here to learn more about the magazine.

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