Professor Rhonda Franklin is ARCS Scientist of the Year for 2020

Professor Rhonda Franklin has been named Scientist of the Year for 2020 by the ARCS Foundation Minnesota chapter. The award recognizes her work “mentoring and encouraging students to follow careers in science.” The honor is not surprising considering Franklin’s history of deep and sustained engagement with students and young professionals, helping them meet their goals, and grooming them to be future leaders in STEM careers. 

Champion of Student Success

Participation in the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), and the NSF-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program are just a couple of examples of Franklin’s keen dedication to helping students succeed. She was instrumental in the founding of the IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) student branch at the University, and served as its first faculty advisor. As an engineer and scientist, she has been an active member of IEEE, planning and participating in programs that introduce students to microwave and wireless technologies, which are her specific areas of research interest. She has a long and distinguished record of active engagement and achievements not only as a scientist, but also as a mentor helping her students and other charges through professional development and career planning.

Listen to Professor Franklin describe her experiences leading to the ARCS award. (Our thanks to Barbara Goergen and Judith Benham of the Minnesota chapter of the ARCS Foundation for making the video available.)

In 2014, Franklin co-founded IMS Project Connect which is aimed at familiarizing undergraduate and first year minority and women students with the microwave community and industry by facilitating collaboration with the MTT Society through the symposium. She has worked with co-founders, professors Thomas Weller and Rashaunda Henderson, to plan the program which includes developing communication and networking skills, understanding workplace expectations, career opportunities in microwave engineering in industry, academia, and government, and facilitating meetings with industry leaders and scientists.

Franklin’s dedication to the overall success of her students is seen in the recent presentations of Yali Zhang and Aditya Dave at the College of Science and Engineering 3MT Competition. The crisp 3 minute descriptions of their doctoral research that Zhang and Dave present are examples of Franklin’s work helping students develop their hard (research) as well as soft (communicsations) skills. Both students were selected to compete in the final round of the International Microwave Symposium 3MT competitions, Zhang in 2019, and Dave in 2020.  

Franklin was the recipient of the 2016-17 John Tate Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising, and in 2019 she received the N. Walter Cox Award for her exemplary service to the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society. Recently, Prof. Rhonda Franklin also received the IEM Abbott Professorships in Innovative Education awarded by the Institute for Engineering in Medicine. She is an inaugural recipient and shares the award with Prof. Chris Pennell of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. These Abbott Professorships are awarded to the faculty co-directors of the IEM Inspire Program which aims to motivate students to pursue STEM careers in medicine and healthcare. 

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is proud of Prof. Franklin’s achievements and laud her contributions supporting future STEM leaders. 

Learn about Professor Franklin's research