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Building a more Diverse Engineering Workforce

Dr. Michel Kornegay of Morgan State University speaks with Tektronix DE&I groups

In the first joint event from the Tektronix Women in Tech (WIT) and Black Excellence Matters (BEM) groups, Tektronix employees heard from Dr. Michel A. Kornegay, the first woman to earn an engineering doctorate from Morgan State University, on the importance of holding up more engineers of color as role models for the next generation.

Dr. Kornegay’s guest appearance as a closing event to Black History Month addressed the importance of attracting and retaining engineers from underrepresented communities. Tektronix leadership announced a concerted effort in 2021 to invest in more Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as part of building a more diverse engineering talent pipeline. Dr. Kornegay was welcomed before the event by Tektronix CEO Tami Newcombe, VP of Engineering Mehmet Aslan and BEM co-founder Keith Tinsley.  (Read: Tektronix VP of Engineering Mehmet Aslan on how diversity in engineering begins at school.)

Tektronix equipment being used at Morgan State University

(1) Dr. Duane Harvey Chief scientist 5G mmWave demo by TEK at Morgan by Donald Dalebroux principal RF engineer

(2) Don and Hudson (IT specialist) reasoning

(3) Prof Duane Harvey celebrating his new SDR goodies from ADI for online hands-on course

 

Dr. Kornegay, associate professor and director of the Advanced RF/Microwave Measurement and Electronic Design (ARMMED) lab and senior faculty researcher for the Cybersecurity Center for Assurance and Policy at Morgan State University, spoke about her current innovative research projects at Morgan State, which involve pursuing new technologies, solving advanced problems and securing vulnerabilities in embedded systems for wireless communications that operate in the RF to sub-THz frequency spectrum. She also discussed the journey that led her to many firsts as a woman of color in the STEM field.

Dr. Michel Kornegay of Morgan State University in a research lab

https://news.morgan.edu/u-s-army-awards-morgan-nearly-340k-in-grant-funding-for-electronics-research/

6G THz lab in collaboration research with Army research lab

 

“This event is a great example of two communities coming together to elevate the voices of people who have been historically underrepresented in the engineering field,” said Dr. Amr Haj-Omar, co-founder of BEM at Tektronix. “We were honored to have Dr. Kornegay as a guest speaker and look forward to a continued partnership with her in the future.”

Dr. Kornegay credited her professors at Morgan State with helping to propel her breakthrough career. “When I was in high school and earning my undergraduate degree, I didn’t see electrical engineers that looked like me. But Morgan State created an environment that told students they were capable of anything. So now I tell people, ‘If you’re in the minority, don’t pay any attention to that. You can do it!’” (Watch the full video of Dr. Kornegay’s Tektronix appearance here.)

The key to getting women and students of color interested in STEM careers is to expose them to the fields early and often, Dr. Kornegay said. Conversely, she warned about the harm unconscious bias can do in discouraging members of these communities from advancing in technical careers.

“It’s essential to be aware of your unconscious bias and be sensitive to the other person’s experience so that you can find common ground,” she said. “Relationships are required, whether it’s recruiting a high school student to an HBCU, keeping them involved in the program or helping them find their first job.”

Dr. Kornegay emphasized that keeping students engaged in programs at Morgan State is an important part of her work. Studies have shown that students of color, even if they do enter engineering programs, still have lower retention.

“We can teach the technical elements of a subject matter, but it’s also important to address the social and personal aspects of students’ lives and the professional anxieties they have as a minority in the field,” said Dr. Kornegay. “Many of our students show up day one thinking they are prepared, then feel that the rug was pulled out from under them once they get started. It’s up to professors and leaders to revive their confidence.”

Despite the challenges these students face, Dr. Kornegay said she feels optimistic for the future of the engineering industry and spoke to what an exciting time it is for women in STEM.

“Much of what Dr. Kornegay said mirrored the mission of Women in Technology to create a community where everyone feels welcome and brings their most authentic self to work,” said Selu Gupta, co-founder of WIT at Tektronix, who works to inspire more women and girls to get excited about STEM careers.

The event with Dr. Kornegay was part of a new partnership on 5G mmWave and 6G research between Tektronix and the ARMMED lab at Morgan State University. Under the proposed partnership, Tektronix will supply equipment and software to the lab and fund graduate students interested in becoming Tek fellows while at Morgan State so that their projects and internships align. This will create an organic pipeline of Morgan State interns who could go on to fill future engineering positions at the company. Morgan State was recently named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the HBCU awards more bachelor’s degrees and doctorates to African Americans than any other traditional campus in Maryland.

Wireless communication Professors Dr. Richard Dean and his Ph.D. students breaking bread with Tektronix team.png

Wireless communication Professors Dr. Richard Dean and his wife along with his Ph.D. students celebrating and breaking bread with Tektronix.