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j_simas_abella_500x279Most of us don’t give much thought to the people behind the innovations that improve our lives.  If we consider these innovations at all, it’s usually because we’re thinking about a particular technological capability or device that we use or need.  But there are people behind all of the advances that impact our day-to-day lives in such incredible ways.  More and more, those people are engineers.

 For example, last month, Columbia University bestowed their annual Medal of Excellence toT.  This honorary degree has been awarded every year since 1929 to a Columbia graduate who has achieved exceptional professional and community accomplishments, but this year marks the first time this honor was given to an engineer.

 Dr. Abella, Executive Director of the Innovative Services Research Department at AT&T, leads a team that focuses on computer-human interaction and develops devices that empower people with new capabilities.  Dr. Abella and her team specialize in fascinating technologies, including data mining, user interfaces, IPTV, mobile services, and SIP/VoIP technologies.

As an engineer with a passion for helping others, she has been the recipient of an impressive list of awards and accomplishments, many due to her advocacy efforts in encouraging women and minorities to pursue opportunities in engineering and computer science.  Additionally, Dr. Abella sits on President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, where she works with other industry leaders to encourage minorities to enter the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

Today’s engineers will mold the future, and encouraging diversity in these fields will open up new possibilities that will benefit all people.  In order to continue the technological advancements that enhance and improve our lives, it’s essential that more room is opened up at the table for an increasingly diverse, brand-new generation of engineers.  At LISTA, we think that encouraging and promoting Latinos in the information sciences, technology, and telecommunications fields is critical for our community and for our entire country.  Attracting top-notch talent in STEM will help to propel our country and our economy to a better future. That is why she won in 2011 our Campiones de Nuestra Comunidad Achievement Award for her work and commitment to our community.

The work of today’s engineers will shape tomorrow, and tomorrow’s engineers will create a future we can’t yet envision.  Congratulations to Dr. Alicia Abella for her award and for her efforts on behalf of the next generation of innovators.