Dr. Lisa Lazareck-Asunta is a 20-year Senior Member of the IEEE and has been an elected and appointed IEEE volunteer since 2003. She is currently the Chair of the IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) Committee, and has held many IEEE leadership positions, including roles in the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, IEEE Technical Activities Board Strategic Planning Committee (TAB SPC), and IEEE Young Professionals Committee.
Lisa has multiple degrees in electrical engineering: a BSc and MSc from the University of Manitoba, Canada; and a PhD (or DPhil) from the University of Oxford, UK. Her academic expertise is in biomedical signal processing and includes investigating the Obstructive Sleep Apnea disorder by the processing of oxygen saturation signals for diagnostic purposes. Following her PhD, she worked for 6.5 years at the Wellcome Trust, UK – specializing in charitable grant funding and public engagement with science and engineering. Lisa still enjoys filming for the Discovery Channel every now and again, and is currently in a new role at the University of Reading, looking at the impact of research outside of academia.
What movies or live shows have you enjoyed the most in recent years?
Traveling for the IEEE is a real treat for me, as it typically means a few uninterrupted hours of film watching on flights around the world. I had an inspirational trip to Atlanta recently (to attend the IEEE Board Series Meeting in June 2019) and watched a double header of “On the Basis of Sex” – a drama biopic about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, followed by her documentary “RBG.” What an amazing woman, with her champion husband and incredible story. We are also taking trips down memory lane in my household, re-watching Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, followed by our own spaghetti and meatball dinner. My two year old daughter was over the moon with joy. I have also loved live theatre my whole life, and my latest treat was Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, another inspirational story about a talented woman with an impressive career.
What about current technology worries you?
It isn’t current technology that worries me, but more so how people can use / misuse that technology. There are social, ethical and legal ramifications for using technology – many issues that are being unpicked by our STEM engagement and impact communities – which is a step in the right direction.
What in recent years has surprised you the most?
I am surprised how the term “AI” is so ubiquitous these days, with very unsatisfying explanations about its meaning and context. I am surprised how powerful my mobile phone is, and how quickly it then becomes unusable. I am surprised how the number of women staying in engineering (in certain countries) is so slow to change despite the concerted efforts of so many to focus on STEM for children in their early years, etc. I am surprised how much pink is still for girls, and blue is still for boys. Oh, and my daughter – she surprises me daily.
What was the best advice anyone has given you?
Sometimes in life, you are put in a situation that you just wouldn’t have chosen for yourself. How you behave in this situation, how you make the best out of this situation, is entirely up to you. When I was given this advice, I didn’t realize that it was just a longer version of: when life throws you lemons, make lemonade.
What has been or is your favorite equation or concept in engineering, and why?
I love equations – the more complicated the better. In engineering, I especially enjoyed taking the time to figure out the hardest equation and breaking it down into tangible bits that I could crack. My background in electrical engineering included a lot of pattern recognition, signal processing, and complex mathematics.
What have been important life lessons for you that you might be able to share with us?
Strive for excellence in all that you do. Always try your best – because you just can’t do any better. You must love what you do in life, because a job is just a job, and a passion is for a lifetime.
How many unread emails are in your inbox?
At the moment, five, but there will certainly be another thirty by the morning. The beauty of working with volunteers around the world, is that you are guaranteed a full inbox every morning, and every night. I was fortunate enough to stumble across a productivity course a few years ago, and I became an “email ninja” – only processing my inbox a few times a day, and working out a filing system that works most of the time. I still need to work hard at responding to my emails, but more and more, I am trying to speak with colleagues instead, online and via phone, to avoid email overload and paperwork burnout.
What should IEEE be (more) involved in?
I would love to see a higher public profile for the IEEE, that goes beyond our science/engineering/technical communities that already know about our strengths and hold our work to a high esteem. I think that making IEEE accessible for the public (Who created the standard of IEEE 802.11x or Wi-Fi, used and loved everywhere?) would help breakdown the stereotype of ‘the engineer’ which exists in many countries still. I believe this would help make our profession as diverse and inclusive as it needs to be in order to best advance technology for the benefit of humanity.