10 Women Who Broke New Ground in Engineering


Marilyn Jorgensen Reece

One of the most travelled pieces of highway in the entire United States was designed by a woman who said she studied engineering because she liked mathematics and "didn't want to be a teacher." During the time when Marilyn Jorgensen Reece (1926-2004) was in college, women who had an aptitude and bent toward the technical weren't often encouraged into many career paths other than teaching. Reece achieved distinction not only in becoming the first female to earn full licensing as a civil engineer in the state of California in 1954, but she also was entrusted with the design of the San Diego-Santa Monica freeway interchange in Los Angeles.

Among design critics, Reece's spiral design for the I-10 and 405 exchange is noteworthy for how it looks, but the designer herself spoke of the engineering behind the curvature and how the ultimate goal was to keep traffic moving by allowing drivers to maintain speed through the curves. And Reece also acknowledged that as a woman in engineering she had experienced few obstacles to slow down her career, having found help and support among her male colleagues [sources: McLellan; ASCE].