A New Leader to Encourage Women in STEM

Marianthi Ierapetritou is taking on a role that will enable her to directly inspire more women to pursue careers in the STEM fields and offer support to those already there. Photo: Dennis Connors

Marianthi Ierapetritou, chair of Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, named associate vice president of Rutgers' SciWomen

Marianthi Ierapetritou has always been something of an outlier.

As an undergraduate at the National Technical University in her native Greece, she was one of the few female students majoring in chemical engineering, graduating first in her class. The story was similar as she pursued her Ph.D. at Imperial College in London and, later, at Princeton University, where she completed post-doctoral research.

“I thought that by now the situation would be different,” said Ierapetritou, Distinguished Professor and chair of Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. “Women have made progress in STEM, but we’re not there yet.”

Now Ierapetritou is taking on a role that will enable her to directly inspire more women to pursue careers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and offer support to those already there. On July 1, she will begin a new position at Rutgers as associate vice president for the promotion of women in science, engineering and mathematics, also known as SciWomen.

Ierapetritiou, whose research focuses on modeling and computational analysis for chemical processing, has been an active scholar, leader and educator. She has developed an interdisciplinary program in the area of process systems engineering, establishing collaborations that have secured continuous funding exceeding $40 million. She has published more than 250-peer reviewed journal articles and has received numerous awards for undergraduate and graduate teaching.

Barbara Lee, senior vice president for academic affairs, said that Ierapetritou, who joined Rutgers in 1998, was a natural choice to lead SciWomen.

“Marianthi knows firsthand what it takes to break down barriers,” Lee says. “Her passion to support and promote women has been a constant in her leadership roles, acting as a role model but also initiating and leading successful programs, such as the leadership program for senior women in STEM.” 

SciWomen, created in 2006  and led initially by Joan Bennett, Distinguished Professor of plant biology and pathology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, is advised by a board of senior women scientists from Rutgers-Newark, Rutgers-New Brunswick, Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. The office provides resources and support for engagement and success in the sciences, acts as a catalyst and partner in achieving diversity, works to develop a well-trained workforce for the 21st century and contributes to the development of women leaders.

Ierapetritou said she is taking a strategic approach to putting her personal stamp on the office. “I have very ambitious goals,” she said.  On the short list: assessing the needs of women in STEM at Rutgers, a website redesign, reinvigorating and expanding SciWomen’s advisory board and holding a series of fall workshops. Eventually, she would like to set up a program that enlists coaches and mentors to help women in specific areas, such as how to negotiate salary and working conditions and how to deal with sexism in the workplace.

“I want to create an inviting culture so that women perceive Rutgers as a great career choice in STEM,” Ierapetritiou says. “My hope is that Rutgers can be a leader in changing the face of STEM for women and that the university becomes a role model for others around the country.”

Story by Carla Cantor for Rutgers Today.

For more information, contact Carla Cantor at ccantor@rutgers.edu or 848-932-0555.