Karen Mudry ’70 EE, PhD

Retired assistant dean and professor, University of Akron, and former program manager for the Whitaker Foundation


Karen Mudry ’70 EE, PhD

Q. What has been your career path since graduation from Villanova?

A: After graduation, I went to work for the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, MD. My group leader was a Villanova graduate who, later I heard, said that one of his career accomplishments was hiring one of the first female engineers. The NSA sent me to graduate school at The Johns Hopkins University. While there, I became interested in the new field of Biomedical Engineering. After getting married, I moved to Ithaca, NY where I enrolled in a PhD program, which combined Electrical Engineering and Neuroscience—what is now known as Biomedical Engineering. Following a postdoctoral year at the University of Pittsburgh, I joined the faculty in Electrical Engineering at the University of Akron, later becoming Assistant Dean and then the founding head of the new graduate department of Biomedical Engineering.

I am now retired and spend most of my time doing charitable projects to support our military, reading, traveling and taking care of my three miniature goldendoodles.

Karen Mudry ’70 EE, PhD

Q: What was the highlight of your career?

A: The highlight of my career was starting a new Department of Biomedical Engineering. Today the department is vibrant and includes an undergraduate program and a graduate program. Biomedical Engineering, at that time, faced a lot of criticism from traditional engineering departments. Thanks to the work of the Whitaker Foundation, which provided seed funding for Biomedical Engineering programs and research, and where I later worked, there are now Biomedical Engineering departments in just about all major universities with engineering schools. 

Q:  How did your Villanova education contribute to your success?         

A: When I was at Villanova, I was the only female engineering student in my class. There were four women in the class before me and two in the class after me. The only other women on campus were in the nursing school and one or two women who were daughters of faculty members. Villanova taught me to meet the challenge of being a “first” or the “only” female. Those adjectives were true about me for just about my entire career. It made me very self-reliant and determined to succeed. 

Q:  What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

A: It is just about impossible to do everything all at the same time—career, home, husband, family.  Most women, at various times during their careers, will have to make concessions on some aspects of their planned life because of unforeseen events that are part of living. Over the course of a lifetime, however, there will be many opportunities to accomplish all that an individual might have hoped for.

Q:  What one piece of advice would you give to the next generation of female engineers?

A: Being in a non-traditional field is not easy but it is certainly rewarding. Engineers are taught to solve problems and you will be able to do that more easily, no matter if you are working in a technological field or trying to teach a child to read.