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Notable SWE Members

These are SWE Boston members who have not only made significant contributions to SWE as a Society, they have also made significant contributions to society as a whole. They can be pioneers in their engineering field, activitists for STEM or women’s rights, noteworthy of external articles, or otherwise remarkable on their own merit.

In order by last name, learn more about some of our notable members, below:

Irene Chan

A chemical engineer who mentored students on their paths to college, established scholarships at Brighton High School and MIT, and set up an endowment to continue these scholarships.

On May 26, 2020, Irene ended her four year long fight with ovarian cancer at the age of 66.

Irene emigrated with her family from Hong Kong to Boston in 1969. She graduated from Brighton High School in Boston. She went on to study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biology (1976) and master’s degree in Chemical Engineering (1978). She then finished her post-graduate work at the University of Illinois Champagne/Urbana. Irene always valued education. Through the years, she encouraged and mentored many students on their path to college. She established scholarships at Brighton High School and MIT. As her continued commitment to higher education, Irene set up an endowment to ensure that these scholarships would continue.

After finishing her education, Irene worked for the defense and commercial manufacturing industries. Her most recent work places included General Electric Aviation, Gillette, and Proctor and Gamble as a quality engineer before retiring at Keurig.

Irene doted on her many nieces and nephews. Every year in September, her house was full of school supplies for the youngsters. She loved to travel and went on many trips to Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Irene enjoyed applying her education and analytical ability to the stock market. She always knew what she wanted.

Irene was predeceased by her parents Ying Yee Chan and Ngan Siu Yee, sister Yim Chin and brother Bryan. Irene is survived by her three sisters and two brothers: Katharina (Steven) of Dracut, Massachusetts; Elise of Boston, Massachusetts; Angela (Michael) of Bay Area, California; Allen (Jocelyn) of Austin, Texas; and David of Boston, Massachusetts. She also is survived by many dear cousins, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews. She is missed by many dear friends, especially Ilda Indrade, Johanna Webster, and Regina Casey.

In memory of Irene, please donate to Tewksbury Community Pantry at www.tewksburypantry.org or to a charity of your choice.

Mildred Dresselhaus

An electrical engineer, the first woman Institute Professor and Professor Emerita of Physics and Electrical Engineering at MIT, known as the “Queen of Carbon Science,” SWE speaker.

On February 20, 2017, SWE Boston lost one of its most accomplished members – Mildred Dresselhaus. SWE Boston has been honored to have Professor Dresselhaus as a member since 1972. She was known as the “queen of carbon science” and was the first female Institute Professor and professor emerita of physics and electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Dresselhaus won numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, the Enrico Fermi Award and the Vannevar Bush Award.

In addition to her many technical accomplishments, Professor Dresselhaus was known for giving back to the technical community.

At the February 2013 Professional Development meeting, both SWE members and BAE Systems employees were delighted to meet in person and hear from Professor Mildred Dresselhaus about her lifelong adventures with carbon. She guided us through her work decade-by-decade and emphasized that “when disaster strikes, don’t despair but patiently try to find your new path”. Prof. Dresselhaus was very excited about her recent (2012) Kavli award for her contributions in nanoscience and for good reasons; she is the first solo recipient of the newly established (some say Nobel-equivalent) highest honor in the fields of nanotechnology, neuroscience and astrophysics. She joked about it during dinner and told us that she had been planning to retire but after getting all these awards recently, she feels she has to work even harder these days to feel that she really earned them!

Personally we were inspired and re-energized to meet the 82-year old “Queen of Carbon” and long-time SWE member and supporter. Many thanks to BAE Systems for hosting the event.

To honor Millie’s legacy, gifts in her memory may be made here: https://annualfund.mit.edu/dresselhaus/

Isabelle F. French

Radio engineer, first woman graduate of Tri-State College, SWE President

Dr. Isabelle French was the first woman to graduate from Tri-State College’s School of Engineering with a degree in radio engineering, in 1944. Tri-State’s Alumni Association honored her with a Distinguished Service Award in 1962. Then she received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater in 1966.

She worked on the engineering and development of radar tubes at Sylvania in Massachusetts from 1944 until 1952, when she moved to a similar position at Capehart-Farnsworth in Indiana for 2 years.

In 1954 she joined Bell Telephone Laboratories in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she built her own home in Allentown, and remained until her retirement more than 40 years later. After retiring to Washington State, she did some wood working of all types — building furniture and cabinets, remodeling kitchens. French passed away in 2014.

She was the president of the national Society of Women Engineers from 1964 to 1966. She joined SWE in 1951 and had been an active participant in Society activities ever since.  She served as section director for both the Boston and Philadelphia sections, chairman of the Philadelphia section, vice-chairman of Boston, director-at-large, national treasurer, member of the Executive Committee, and national secretary. She was a Fellow of the Society of Women Engineers.

In their 2001 Profiles of SWE Pioneers Oral History Project interview, French and Elaine Pitts discussed their experiences growing up during the Depression; their education; their careers in engineering; and their participation in SWE and other professional organizations.

Linda Graf

Chemical engineer, published author of “To Caroline – Love, Auntie: A Novel.”

Linda Graf has over forty years experience in STEM positions, including corrosion consultant, process engineer, applications engineer, quality control engineer, chemical engineer, product marketing manager, quality validation specialist and quality validation manager. She has worked in a number of diverse companies from Kennecott Copper Corporation where she was a corrosion consultant for an off-site in-situ Copper mining project to Wyeth/Pfizer where she was a senior quality validation specialist and quality validation manager, with areas of expertise in Equipment Cleaning, Steaming, Depyrogenation, and Autoclave Sterilization.  While at Pfizer, Linda became certified as an ASQ (American Society of Quality) Certified Quality Auditor (CQA), Quality Engineer (CQE) and Quality Manager (CQM). She also worked with a world team of professionals to publish the Parenteral Drug Association (PDA) Technical Report #48 “Moist Heat Sterilizer Systems”, May 2010.

Most recently, Linda has published a STEM novel describing the journey of a STEM woman who became successful despite the failures and gender bias she encountered in her life and career. The book is called “To Caroline-Love, Auntie”, and was the subject of an interview by renowned journalist Laurie Kirby on “Woman’s Watch’, WBZ Radio. STEM connector, a consortium of institutions concerned with STEM education, included a write-up on her book in their national newsletter STEMdaily.

Linda Graf has a BS in Chemistry Simmons College, Boston, MA. 
MS in Chemical Engineering Tufts University, Medford, MA.     
     (Full Academic Scholarship)
MBA in Marketing Bentley College, Waltham, MA.

At Polaroid Corporation, Linda was a QC Engineer, Process Engineer, and a Chemical Engineer who developed a viable production process for the removal of salts from solutions using artificial kidney dialyzers. The salt transfer processes were fully characterized as part of her MS Thesis, “Characterization of an Artificial Kidney Dialyzer by the Removal of Salts from an Anionic Surfactant Solution”.

As a Senior Applications Engineer at Instron Corporation, Linda used both her marketing and engineering expertise to develop the specifications for a new rheology software package in order to automate existing rheology equipment and increase Instron’s presence in that market.
She served as Instron’s Representative to the ASTM D20 (Plastics) Committee, and taught a one-day course in “Plastics Testing” at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA.
Linda was a Product Marketing Manager at Allen-Bradley (now Rockwell International), responsible for developing the Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) from the engineering concept stage to product introduction. Based on her marketing package, the RTU won the 1990 Most Innovative Product Award. 

As a Documentation/Validation Engineer at Millipore Corporation, Linda created documentation packages for Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology customers for validation of automated and manual Tangential Flow and Chromatography Systems purchased from Millipore (Automation via Allen-Bradley PLCs with Intellution “FIX” interface). 

She wrote the Software Functional Specifications for the automated systems, and performed Software Development Tests when required.

In 2019, SWE Boston celebrated International Women’s Day with NSBE Boston Professionals and Autodesk Boston. In line with the year’s official International Women’s Day campaign theme #BalanceforBetter, a panel was hosted featuring a discussion on how to obtain balance between professional, personal, and day-to-day activities.

Bambi Hazel

Software engineer of the first electronic computer. SWE Boston “Hidden Figure”

Bambi joined SWE in 1952 as a junior engineer at Raytheon. She was the SWE Boston Treasurer in 1954, served on the planning committee for the 1956 SWE Eastern Seaboard Conference, was the FY57 and FY58 SWE Boston Section Director (i.e. represented SWE Boston on the national board of directors…that BOD model was phased out in 1958 when it was decided that the BOD was vastly too large). In 1964 the women engineering students at MIT hosted a “Symposium on American Women in Science and Engineering,” an informational 2-day outreach event for high school girls from 150 schools; Bambi and others held an informal evening chat to answer the students’ questions about the field.

Group portrait of the planning committee for the 1956 Eastern Seaboard Conference (akin to today’s SWE Local conference). Another notable SWE member, Janice Rittenburg Rossbach, is standing to Bambi’s left side

Inez Bellamy Hazel, age 93, passed away on October 15, 2013. She was born in 1920 to Josiah and Bertha Bellamy of New York City. She was predeceased by her older brother Athelstan A. Bellamy. Inez and husband Frank have been residents of Lexington for over 50 years.

Inez loved math from her earliest years. She attended Hunter College High School and graduated from Hunter College with a major in Mathematics and minor in Physics. She was an early member of the Society of Women Engineers. Inez had a long and distinguished career as a computer programmer and systems analyst, holding senior positions at

  • Lincoln Lab where she worked on Whirlwind, the first electronic computer;
  • at MITRE on the Sage Air Defense System;
  • at the Harvard Computing Center for 15 years; and then
  • at MIT where she retired at age 70.

Inez, affectionately known as Bambi, had a lively personality, wonderful sense of humor, generous spirit, quiet elegance, and keen sense of justice. She loved research and always amazed family and friends by championing ideas that were ahead of their time. Her love of music brought her much joy.

Inez is survived by her husband of 70 years Frank Hazel, younger brother Robert O. S. Bellamy; daughters Doreen, Karen, and Lauren, and their families. She was beloved Granny to 10 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, numerous loving nieces and nephews, and many dear friends.

Mary L. Pottle

Mechanical Engineer, activist, and teacher. Founder of SWE Boston.

Mary Louise Pottle (born April 19, 1926) is one of the four founders of SWE Boston. She was one of the first few women to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Northeastern University. She worked as an engineer for Allis Chalmers, Manufacturing Company, Boston, MA. She spent most of her life as a teacher in Braintree, MA. Mary Pottle was a lifelong advocate for human rights. In addition to founding SWE Boston, she also served as the president of South Shore Coalition for Human Rights for over 20 years.

Mary Louise Pottle of North Weymouth, died June 22, 2021, at the age of 95. Mary lived a life of love, passion and integrity. She was highly educated, including a master’s degree of Secondary Education and was proudly one of the first women to graduate from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Mary powered through years of gender bias struggles and was one of the four founders of the Society of Women Engineers. She spent most of her career as a teacher for Braintree Public Schools and took great pride in seeing her students succeed in life. Her volunteer work and humanitarian efforts were vast and impressive including many churches on the south shore, Friends of the Weymouth Libraries, South Shore Habitat for Humanity, Southern Christian Leadership, Lambda Kappa Mu Sorority, United Farm Workers of CA, Weymouth Human Rights Committee, South Shore Human Rights Committee, Weymouth Fair Housing, METCO Board, Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore, 1776 Fund Drive and more. Mary was passionate about civil rights and worked tirelessly on improving housing, literacy programs and healthcare in Alabama as well as providing advocacy for Zimbabwean students and families. Her efforts resulted in many awards and recognition from 1961-2019. Mary was kind, strong, resilient and a great friend. She will be deeply missed. Mary was blessed with friends that she loved like family. Dear friend of Judith Patt of Weymouth. Also a dear friend to the late Reverend George Hodgkins and his wife Connie; their children Don, Carol Leonard, Wendie Salisbury, Bob, Forrest, and the late Mark; and their extended families as well. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend the Memorial Service on Wednesday at 11 am in Quincy Point Congregational Church, 444 Washington Street, Quincy. Burial in Old North Cemetery, Weymouth, at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Mary may be made to Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore, 8 Driftway Road, Weymouth, MA 02191. See www.Keohane.com for directions and online condolences.

For an audio transcript of an oral history recorded in 2017, click on the following link: http://www.sweboston.org/mary-pottle.html

Natalie Taub

Civil engineer who ran her own construction company in the 1950s.

What Natalie Adelman Taub faced as a pioneering woman in Boston’s construction field was clear from the cover of New England Construction magazine’s January 1953 issue.

A 23-year-old civil engineering graduate of MIT, she was photographed at a construction site, leaning over blueprints spread atop a table, ready to see the project to completion. But the headline in the lower corner, which also ran atop the feature inside, reflected the industry’s attitude toward women in supervisory roles: “They’ve Got a Dame Running the Job!”

Mrs. Taub, who was 89 and living in Waltham when she died March 23, didn’t stop with overseeing projects. When New England Construction checked in with her in 1956, she was running her own firm — N.J. Adelman Construction Co.

“The field is interesting and challenging. More women should enter it,” she told the magazine in 1994, when the headline in a “Women in Construction” issue announced, “She’s Still on the Job!” — 41 years after that first profile began not with a description of her first-rate credentials, but with: “Young, pretty Natalie Adelman . . . ”

For her, it was always about the work. She was from a family that had long plied the construction trades.

“My father is a contractor,” she said in a WBZ radio interview in the early 1950s. “And my grandfather and great-grandfathers, too, for five generations were carpenters and builders.”

She followed in their footsteps, never considering another path.

“Why should construction be exclusively a man’s field? There are many fine women architects, designers, and decorators, so why not women contactors? After all, the big money is at the top,” she told The Associated Press in 1954 after founding her own firm.

She was one of only six women in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 1950 graduating class, and she was the only woman to receive a bachelor’s degree in building engineering and construction.

“Tiny MIT Girl Bosses Malden Building Job,” a local newspaper headline would say three years later.

While at MIT, she had been the only woman elected to Chi Epsilon, the national honor society for civil engineers. “The fraternity boys called her ‘Brother Natalie,’ ” the Boston Sunday Herald noted in 1954.

“I do not believe that her being the only woman on the job fazed her,” said her youngest child, Julie Vogel of Lexington. “I think she saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate her capabilities while pursuing a field from which she drew immense satisfaction. I never heard her complain in a meaningful way about injustices that may have arisen on the job, or about the way she may have been treated because she was a woman.”

Reporters in the 1950s, women and men alike, repeatedly focused on Mrs. Taub’s looks and what she wore. “Clad in dungarees, Natalie inspects and directs work, scampers up and down ladders,” the Herald reported in 1954.

“Some people might be squeamish about climbing high, but now I’m used to it,” she told the Herald. “In fact, the higher I have to climb the better I like it because I know the building is growing.”

Watching a blueprint evolve into a finished structure, she added, is “fascinating work, especially when you see a building completed – the answer to your efforts.”

The oldest of three children, Natalie J. Adelman was born in Boston in 1929 and spent her early years in Dorchester until her family moved to Brookline.

Her mother, Rose Travis, was a homemaker. Her father, Albert Adelman, was born in Grodno, which is part of Belarus. He emigrated to the United States as a child, graduated from Harvard College, and was chief engineer for Coleman Brothers Corp.

“He was a major influence on her,” Julie said. “He deserves credit in that time period for taking his teenage daughter, who was interested in science and math, to construction jobs.”

When Mrs. Taub graduated from Brookline High School, at 16, the class yearbook said her aspiration was “to be an engineer, just like daddy.”

In 2010, the MIT Technology Review said that while she was still in high school, “an MIT admissions officer phoned her father to say the Institute wanted to boost female enrollment — would he encourage Natalie to apply?”

At MIT, the Review said, “Taub shone. Her spatial aptitude was extraordinary.”

After graduating, and before launching her own firm, she took a job at Coleman Brothers. At one point, she worked part time while studying construction law at Harvard Law School.

Though she was “getting all this recognition as a powerhouse in the construction industry,” her daughter Julie said, “what she wanted more than anything was a family.”

One day while walking along Revere Beach, “she looked down at her hand and saw her MIT ring, and she wished it was a wedding ring,” Julie said, “and she took it off and threw it into the ocean.”

When she was 27, she met Dr. Z. Stanley Taub, a physician. They married in 1957 and within a year “he developed multiple sclerosis, while they were living in Germany,” Julie said. “She often used her engineering and building skills to make his life better.”

Because he loved to swim in the ocean when they went out in their boat from their Chatham summer home, Mrs. Taub designed and rigged a lift to hoist him in and out of the water. After their children were grown and they moved from Sudbury to a smaller home in Marlborough, she designed the house to accommodate his declining mobility. Dr. Taub died in 2007.

Mrs. Taub took time away from work to raise her children, and in the late 1970s she began working for the US Environmental Protection Agency, focusing on water quality issues. She also graduated from Northeastern University with a master’s in environmental engineering.

One day in the early 1980s, Joseph Michelson, then president of J. Slotnik Construction, met her for lunch and promptly hired her. Serving as vice president of the company, over the next decade she managed millions of dollars worth of projects, including stores at Copley Place, laboratories in Bar Harbor, Maine, a VA hospital building in White River Junction, Vt., and the Coast Guard facility in Boston.

“She could see the issues and was very organized about putting things together,” Michelson said. “She had a wonderful way to get along with people. The supervisors we had were all men, and they respected her tremendously.”

A service has been held for Mrs. Taub, who in addition to her daughter Julie, leaves a son, Ethan of Framingham; another daughter, Lauren Berman of Newton; a sister, Lilla Waltch of Cambridge; and six grandchildren.

When Mrs. Taub turned 80, she and her children’s families took a walking tour of Boston buildings whose construction she had overseen. In advance, her family secretly arranged for an inside visit at the Coast Guard facility.

Mrs. Taub was delighted to see how the building turned out. “She said, ‘This is just how I imagined how it would be used. I always wondered how this stairwell would work out, but it seems fine,’ ” Julie recalled.

She added that “getting the job done and done well was really the driving force for her.”

In the 1950s, Mrs. Taub told a newspaper reporter there was nothing more satisfying than working in construction: “You take a plot of land and three months later, there’s a building on it.”

Nancy S. Timmerman

Acoustics Engineer and first woman President of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering (INCE)

Nancy S. Timmerman, P.E., is the first woman president of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering (INCE).

She has been a member of SWE (Society of Women Engineers) since about 1977. At the time, women in engineering, especially in Boston were relatively rare (only two students in Ocean Engineering). The women engineers at the time got to know each other fairly well. At MIT, Sheila Widnall, who had been involved in SWE, was one of her professors. Nancy has also served on committees assessing awards for SWE, presented a SWE award to a Boston Public School science fair student, and presented her story to high school students (2012).

She has a B.S. in Science Engineering from Northwestern University, with specialization in acoustics. She was among early women majoring in engineering, which she chose because of its prospects for employment. One job she held was at Shure Brothers, Inc., a microphone manufacturer. Although she was introduced to shop at the job, Northwestern had discontinued that subject as a requirement for engineers in favor of computer programming. Since she had no difficulty with that subject, she was able to implement the writing and reviewing of code in later years. It was at the suggestion of the Dean’s Office at Northwestern that Nancy took and passed the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), and applied for a National Science Foundation Fellowship. She received it – all expenses paid to the college or university of your choice. She wound up at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who offered a Research Assistantship on top of the NSF money.

At MIT, she was one of two women studying Ocean Engineering at the time. Her research occurred in the A&V (Acoustics and Vibration) Lab. Her professors included Patrick Leehey, Ira Dyer, Stephen Crandall, Richard M. Lyon, and Sheila Widnall. She intended to receive a Ph.D. from MIT. At MIT, the number of women engineering students was also small. She met some during her extracurricular participation in their swimming team. She did her best to study for her qualifiers on her own, but was unsuccessful. She therefore stayed on the Fellowship and instead studied for her Master’s. MIT awarded her an M.S. in Ocean Engineering for her study on the background noise in the lab’s Wind Tunnel.

After graduation, she worked for engineering consulting firms doing noise and vibration work for heavy industry (power and process facilities. It is then that she became a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Mechanical). Then she became Board Certified by the Institute of Noise Control Engineering (INCE). She later served as the first woman President and an Initial Fellow.

After she got a job related to her degree at Bolt, Beranek, and Newman doing work on materials and designs for sonar (Navy classified work). She has been a long-time member of the Audio Engineering Society, where she has served as the first woman to be Vice President. She is also a member of Tau Beta Pi (engineering honorary society).

For the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), Nancy has served on the Women in Acoustics Committee, the Medals and Awards Committee, the Technical Committee on Architectural Acoustics, and the Technical Committee on Noise where she is a Past Chair and where she was elected Fellow in 1999 for her pioneering work on airport noise monitoring when working at Boston’s Logan Airport. She developed (for the ASA) a public policy on Wind Turbine Noise.

Over the years, Nancy has tried to provide an example to young women who want to study engineering. Those examples include the work for SWE (above), regular visits to MIT as an alumna, and meetings with prospective students to Northwestern’s MacCormick School of Engineering.

Nancy is effectively retired, having difficulty using some of the newer tools and connectivity. She also holds a Service Playing Certificate from the American Guild of Organists, although is not currently playing.