Barbara Oakley, PhD, PE is a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Her work focuses on the complex relationship between neuroscience and social behavior. Dr. Oakley’s research has been described as “revolutionary” in the Wall Street Journal. She is published in outlets as varied as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. She has won numerous teaching awards, including Oakland University's top award for tenured faculty. Her book A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra), (Penguin, 2014) is a New York Times best-selling science book.
Dr. Oakley started studying engineering later than most - her original intention was to become a linguist. She enlisted in the U.S. Army right after high school and spent a year studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. The Army sent her to the University of Washington where she received her first degree in Slavic Languages and Literature. Barbara served four years in Germany as a Signal Officer rising to the rank of Captain. After she left the Army, she studied engineering so that she could "better understand the communications equipment [she] had been working with".
Dr. Oakley has adventured widely through her lifetime. During her time in the U.S. Army, she was recognised as a Distinguished Military Scholar.
It was during her work as a communications expert at the South Pole Station in Antarctica where she met her husband Philip. They married when they got "off the ice" in New Zealand and, with her second degree (in Electrical Engineering) under her belt, Barbara spent three years working as an instrumentation and controls engineer. She worked briefly for the Ford Motor Corporation before beginning a career in consulting. She received an M.S. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1995 and a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering in 1998. After her graduation, she was invited to continue on as professor at Oakland University.
Oakley also spent some time working as a Russian translator on board Soviet trawlers on the Bering Sea, an experience about which she wrote in her book "Hair of the Dog: Tales from a Russian Trawler".
With her husband Philip, Barbara has two daughters as well as two adopted sons who are originally from Kosovo. She is also an elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.
"Barbara is a fantastic speaker, author, researcher, and educator. Her knowledge and enthusiasm are matched by her intelligence and hands-on approach to life. To top it all off, she is kind, friendly and funny. 10 out of 10!" - Pedro Gondim, CEO at Mental Health Academy & Campus College
Praise for A (mind for) numbers: "VERDICT: Superb not only for those who are struggling or who are expert at math, but for readers who wish to think and comprehend more efficiently." - Library Journal Review
"A good teacher will leave you educated. But a great teacher will leave you curious. Well, Barbara Oakley is a great teacher. Not only does she have a mind for numbers, she has a way with words, and she makes every one of them count." - Mike Rowe, creator and host of Discovery Channel’s "Dirty Jobs" and CEO of mikeroweWORKS
"A wonderful book! How do you come to love math and science, and how do you come to learn math and science? Read A Mind for Numbers. Barbara Oakley is the magician who will help you do both." - Francisco J. Ayala, University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, and former President and Chairman of the Board, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Praise for Pathological Altruism: "What a wonderful book! This is one of the few books in evolutionary biology I've read in the past ten years that taught me something completely new." - E. O. Wilson, Harvard University
Praise for Cold-blooded kindness: "Riveting and disturbing, an investigation into American-heartland pathos in which ‘guilt,’ ‘innocence,’ ‘victim,’ ‘perpetrator,’ come to seem almost hopelessly tangled. Barbara Oakley is to be commended for looking so hard and so closely at the motives, in some, that underlie acts of ‘kindness’ and ‘altruism’—suggesting that things are not always as they appear, and the phrase killed with kindness springs from the absolute bedrock of folk wisdom." - Joyce Carol Oates, professor of the arts at Princeton University
Praise for Evil Genes: "A fascinating scientific and personal exploration of the roots of evil, filled with human insight and telling detail." - Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University
Praise for Career Development in Bioengineering and Biotechnology: "I am very impressed with the enormous dedication and skill that created this major, highly-original contribution. I know of nothing like it." - Dr. Bruce Alberts, President Emeritus of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Co-chair of the InterAcademy Council
Praise for Practicing Sustainability: "Delightful…the chapters are gems of precision and insight." - Michael Spence, Nobel Prize Winner in Economics