Dr. Cecelia Wigal was named the first recipient of the Supernova Award at the 2011 Odyssey Luncheon and Awards Ceremony: A Journey of the Rising Stars on May 10 at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
The Supernova Award was launched by the Young Women's Leadership Academy Foundation to recognize exceptional achievements of women working in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math in Hamilton County.
The honoree is assistant dean in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and an engineering professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She was presented the award by CNN Special Correspondent Soledad O'Brien.
"During her professional career, Dr. Wigal has helped hundreds of students begin their career journeys in science, technology, engineering and math," said Maxine Bailey, executive director of the Young Women's Leadership Academy Foundation.
Dr. Wigal was one of five finalists selected by an independent panel of judges.
The other four were Lulu Copeland, manager of technical training at Chattanooga State Community College; Dr. Joyce Hardaway, chief executive officer and owner of Kastle Instructional Recovery; Dr. Anna George, chief research scientist at the Tennessee Aquarium; Dr. Dawn Richards, chairwoman of the Science Department at Baylor School.
"When we decided to launch the Supernova Award we knew there was amazing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) work being led by women in our community," said Bailey. "But we had no idea of the powerful and inspirational stories we would see in the applications."
Wigal was selected in recognition of her dedication to mentoring female students and for leading several educational programs that introduce middle and high school girls to the field of engineering.
She recently designed the first approved engineering curriculum for UTeach, a national math and science teacher-training model that is being implemented at UTC. Additionally, she guides teams of engineering students in the design of assistive technology devices for children with disabilities.
Prior to joining UTC, Wigal was employed for nine years in the aerospace industry.
Young Women's Leadership Academy Foundation also recognized two students from the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy with awards honoring math and science academic achievement and leadership.
Sixth-grader N'Seya Cosme' received the Rising Star Award and ninth-grader Te'ara Jones received the Shining Star Award.