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Thursday’s panelist on the seventh episode of the 2014 Women of Color Webinar series was Technical Innovation in Industry Award nominee Dawnielle Farrar-Gaines, a senior electrical and materials engineer at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.


An exceptional role model, Dr. Farrar-Gaines engaged presenter Imani Carter and co-host Tyrone Taborn in an informative hour-long conversation on breakthrough ideas, inventions, and innovations.

“Innovation is a concept, idea or vision that transforms from where we are to the next state, bringing about change that impacts the way we handle things in the future,” Farrar explained. You can invent a number of different things, she added, but the innovation comes when you can take those things and bring about change that not only impacts you but society as a whole. Starting her career in electrical engineering, she later blended her discipline with materials engineering at the doctorate level. Her former advisor is Jim West, co-developer of the electret microphone. If West’s name doesn’t ring a bell, here’s how a seminal Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering article described the research professor’s work:

“[E]very time someone picks up a telephone, turns on a hearing aid, or pulls the string on a talking Elmo doll, sound travels through West’s invention, which launched his 40-year career at Bell Laboratories (now Lucent Technologies) and landed him in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.”

Out of West’s invention, the electret microphone grew to mics in cellphones, toys for kids, and help us communicate in remote places. “There was a vision there that is shaping where we are today,” Farrar said.

While still in graduate school, she developed a sensor that could be used to coat walls with tiny microphones that were unseen to the naked eye, make things for embedding in shoes to extract energy from, as well as for use in the medical field. Farrar’s work on technologies to improve hearing restoration has earned praise from her peers. Following collaboration with NASA Langley researchers, she got

funding to investigate the application of piezoelectric polymer fibers and fibrous sheet metals for noise reduction of aircraft engines. Her mentoring activities have succeeded in encouraging women of color to pursue careers in math, science and technology. Her membership in organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers and Women in Engineering allows her to have a positive influence on many young minds.

Dr. Farrar-Gaines will be at the Women of Color Conference in Detroit, Michigan The place to be to meet the amazing panelists taking part in this webinar series. For registration and other information, please go to www.womenofcolor.net

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