2018 WITI@UC Athena Awards announced

by Saemmool Lee

Inventors, academics, STEM advocates, and civic technology researchers are among the winners of this year’s WITI@UC Athena Awards, which recognize those who embody, encourage, and promote the inclusion of women in technology.

Founded in 2016, the Women in Technology Initiative at the University of California (WITI@UC) is co-sponsored by CITRIS and the Banatao Institute and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering. Each year, WITI@UC bestows the Athena Awards at its annual fall conference, to be held this year on November 16 at UC Berkeley. The event will highlight the experiences of women working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and explore our collective future with representatives from established companies, startups, academia, and the public sector.

This year’s awards are given in four categories to recognize women technologists in Academic Leadership, Next Generation Engagement, Early Career, and Lifetime Achievement. Winners are leaders who inspire others to pursue and persist in technical careers by way of their outstanding contributions, and their service and mentorship to foster inclusion in the field.

Academic Leadership






Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College.

A mathematician and computer scientist, Maria Klawe received her PhD (1977) and BSc (1973) in mathematics from the University of Alberta. For the last two decades, she has been a leader in gender issues in information technology and in education. In recent years, she has devoted particular attention to improve K-12 science and mathematics education. Her tenure at Harvey Mudd has been marked by raising the percentage of women graduating in physics, computer science and engineering to 50 percent. Klawe has been president of Harvey Mudd College since 2006. Before that, she was dean of engineering at Princeton, and dean of science at the University of British Columbia. Klawe previously worked at IBM Research and the University of Toronto.

Next Generation Engagement






Sally Winkler and Kayla Wolf, co-founders, Double Shelix podcast

Fifth-year Bioengineering Ph.D. candidates at UC Berkeley Sally Winkler and Kayla Wolf are passionate advocates for inclusive science and training new scientists in mentorship, leadership, and communication. With their Double Shelix podcast, they have built a platform to highlight the accomplishments of women in STEM at all career stages, and to help listeners navigate graduate school and overcome “imposter syndrome.” Since its launch in 2017, their podcast has been heard over 25,000 times in more than 40 countries across 21 episodes.

Early Career 






Maria Artunduaga, founder and CEO of Respira Labs

Graduating top of her class from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia, Maria Artunduaga moved to the U.S. to complete her education at Harvard, the University of Washington, and at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, where she obtained master’s degrees in public health and translational medicine respectively. With clinical, research, and technology experience, she has led projects funded by NIH, NSF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Colombian government, Haas School of Business, VentureWell, UCSF, and UW Medicine. Maria is currently a Founder in Residence at UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck and the CITRIS Foundry; an entrepreneur with S2M: The AWIS Accelerator; and founder with Y Combinator’s StartUp School.

Lifetime Achievement






Barbara Simons, former president of the Association for Computing Machinery

Barbara Simons received her Ph.D. in computer science from UC Berkeley in 1981. She is a former president of ACM, the nation’s largest educational and scientific computing society. Simons is the only woman to have been recognized with the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award from UC Berkeley College of Engineering. She is a fellow of ACM and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; she also received the Computing Research Association Distinguished Service Award and the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award. An expert on voting machines, she published a book co-authored with Douglas Jones, entitled, Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? She has served on the Board of Advisors of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission since being appointed by Sen. Harry Reid in 2008, and she co-authored the report that led to the cancellation of Department of Defense’s Internet voting project (SERVE) in 2004 because of security concerns. At Berkeley, she co-founded Women in Computer Science, which subsequently became Women in Computer Science and Engineering (WICSE), as well as the Reentry Program for Women and Minorities in Computer Science. She spent most of her career at IBM Research, from which she has retired.