Valerie Taylor wins
first young alumni award
By David Pescovitz
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