HOUSTON – Two University of Houston students and a faculty member, striving to set examples for future generations of women, have received awards from the prestigious American Association of University Women (AAUW), as part of the organization’s 2018–19 grant cycle.
AAUW advances educational and professional opportunities for women in the United States and around the globe by distributing awards for full-time study or research.
The graduate and post-graduate students are pursuing disparate fields but share the common goal of empowering women and girls.
Vidushi Adlakha is a doctoral candidate studying statistical and computational physics. Adlakha received an international fellowship to continue her studies. Originally from India, she says her classes highlight a gap between men and women in her field.
“In a class of 20 students we are just four females,” she said. “With these funds I hope to help other women come up and take jobs in science and have a seat at the table.”
Adlakha is most interested in characterizing random processes and applying them to climate and finance models. She hopes to be a professor at a research university in the future.
From Ghana, Priscella Asman is a doctoral candidate studying biomedical engineering. Asman, received an international fellowship to continue her studies, which include building biomedical instrumentation. She’s already created a low-cost digital glove to monitor sensory responses while patients undergo surgery.
Asman understands her role as mentor. “People, my younger sister, look up to me back at home. I tell them ‘I’m just like you. I really struggled, but I have come this far and I really like it.’ I encourage them,” she said.
Asman is immersed in her latest creation, a product to improve analysis of brain sensory mapping.
Sunny Yang is an assistant professor of English literature at the university. She was awarded an American fellowship to support completion of her first book, “Fictions of Territoriality.” It examines how ideas about race and geography came together to structure forms of American inequality. To examine this, Yang focuses on the competing legal and literary narratives in the U.S. from 1844 to 1914.
Inequality is something Yang thinks about often.
“Still today when people think of professors they don’t really think of women,” said Yang. “More typically they think of an older guy in a tweed coat. By supporting women as they finish their books or courses, this fellowship helps more women get tenure. It is essentially setting us up to stay in the academic space and change our students’ ideas about who is a professor.”
One of the world’s leading supporters of graduate women’s education, AAUW has awarded more than $115 million in fellowships, grants, and awards to 13,000 women from more than 145 countries since 1888.
“AAUW fellows and grantees have contributed so much to the world at large,” said Kimberly Churches, the chief executive officer of AAUW. “These trailblazers are breaking the mold in nontraditional fields and redefining what leadership and expertise look like. AAUW is proud to support them with the resources necessary to excel in their chosen fields.”