Meet Jeanette Shakalli, PhD, IEEE WIE Member

Profession: Mathematician

How did you first get involved in IEEE Women in Engineering?
I got involved in IEEE WIE thanks to my friends and colleagues Dr. Guadalupe Gonzalez and Dr. Ronald Barazarte. In 2014 I became the WIE Affinity Group Vice Chair for IEEE Panama and I have been a member ever since.

Why did you decide to become a WIE member?
I decided to become a WIE member since WIE stands for everything that I believe in: promoting women in STEM, and inspiring girls around the globe to follow their academic interests in a career in STEM. I recently created the Panamanian Foundation for the Promotion of Mathematics (FUNDAPROMAT), which is a private non-profit Foundation whose mission is to promote the study of mathematics in the Republic of Panama. Through presentations open to the general public given by prominent international mathematicians, we seek to convince kids and adults of all ages that math is not only fun but it also has many interesting applications. Through our math outreach events, we want to inspire Panamanian youth to follow a STEM career. For instance, in our Math Carnivals, three female Panamanian mathematicians guide the participants to help them solve math puzzles and fun games in a collaborative environment. The purpose of these Math Carnivals, which usually take place in a museum, park or mall, is to inspire our youth, in particular girls, to study math or follow a scientific career by showing them real-life examples of Panamanian female mathematicians who are successful in their professions in their own country.

What do you wish other people knew about IEEE WIE?

I wish other people knew all the benefits of becoming a WIE member. The sense of belonging to a community of female professionals who support you and guide you is priceless. The opportunity of building connections and networking with outstanding women from all around the world is so precious.

What is it like to be an IEEE WIE Volunteer, and what do you enjoy about it? 

I love being a WIE volunteer. I enjoy seeing the faces of pure joy and happiness of the kids and adults who participate in our events. For instance, last year I organized the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival (JRMF) in Panama with the support of the current WIE Affinity Group Chair and it was an incredible experience! Kids and adults of all ages enjoyed discovering the world of recreational mathematics.

Why do you feel it is important for women to enter into the field of engineering?

I believe it is important for women to enter into every STEM field since women bring a different perspective to the table. Women can challenge the way things are usually done and come up with fresh ideas on how to tackle everyday problems. By encouraging women to follow a STEM career, we can learn about new ways to innovate as well as novel solutions to issues that others might not consider due to their own unique experiences.