Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering names first female chair

Areeba Amer

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering named their first female chair, Diana Marculescu, on Aug. 26. Marculescu will begin on Dec. 1, succeeding the current chair, Ahmed Tewfik.

Marculescu currently is a researcher and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where she served as a faculty member for nearly two decades. She also served as the associate department head for academic affairs in the Carnegie Mellon Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and she also developed and ran various faculty programs, including a diversity/inclusion awareness initiative.

“On paper, (all of the candidates) were fantastic,” said Gustavo De Veciana, an ECE professor and chair of the ECE department chair selection committee. “But (Marculescu) had a particularly thoughtful way of how she felt that she would want to lead a department … that was an area where she really stood out.”

Marculescu said she decided to apply for the position because of the department’s growth in the past few years.

“The more I learned, I got even more excited,” Marculescu said. “It’s a really exciting place to be at a really exciting time. It’s been growing quite a bit recently, and not just in the number of people … but also in terms of the kind of topics that they’ve started to look at.”

De Veciana said Marculescu has a strong resume and a good track record working with other faculty.

“She articulated … a level of understanding that she’s not here to promote her own success, but her success is tied to faculty success,” De Veciana said.

ECE professor Brian Evans said it was Marculescu’s enthusiasm for her work that made her stand out when listening to all the candidates’ presentations in the selection process.

“A lot of the format (of her presentation) was the same as the other finalists,” Evans said. “But by the time you were done, you were like, ‘Yes, that sounds exciting.’ She was hands down our first choice on the faculty side.” 

Marculescu said she’s been first more than once. Marculescu was the first woman in her department at Carnegie Mellon to go from assistant to associate to a full professor. She was also a first-generation college student, along with her sister. 

“It’s great to be the first to open that door, but once that door is open, I’m hoping there will be many more,” Marculescu said. “There’s a lot of women and underrepresented minorities who should be in STEM. They deserve to be in STEM.”

Having a woman chair the department is important for both current and potential students who can relate to her, said Tricia Berry, director of the Women in Engineering program.

“To have someone to be able to look up to and to see that as another option and career path … I think is really important,” Berry said.

Marculescu said her personal experience as a woman and a first-generation college student will help guide her leadership at UT. 

“I am personally very much invested into making it a welcoming place for everyone regardless of where they’re coming from,” Marculescu said. “As a woman in STEM, I’m very much interested in growing the number of underrepresented groups in ECE.”