Barbara Oakley Speaker

Barbara Oakley

Barbara Oakley is a Professor of Engineering at Oakland University, involved in multiple areas of research ranging from STEM education to Engineering education, to learning practices

Barbara is one of a kind. Highly energetic with terrific stories and a great sense of humour she always manages to get the right messages across to any kind of audience.

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Languages: 

  • English
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Barbara Oakley's 2022 biography

Barbara Oakley’s background

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”.

Education

  • Ph.D. in Systems Engineering, Oakland University
  • Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Oakland University
  • Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, University of Washington
  • Bachelor of Arts in Slavic Languages and Literature, University of Washington
  • Various courses on electromagnetic interference taught by Don White and Consultants of Interference Control Technologies. Other courses through Ford Motor Company on Statistical Process Control, Root Cause Analysis and Audio Systems Engineering.
  • NSF Optics Short Course
  • United States Army Signal Officer Course, Fort Gordon, Georgia
  • Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California

Awards & Honours

  • Appointed to Senior Member, IEEE, 2002
  • Naim and Ferial Kheir Teaching Award, 2002
  • John D. and Dortha J. Withrow Teaching Award, 2001
  • National Science Foundation New Century Scholar, 1999
  • Election as “Eminent Engineer” into Tau Beta Pi, 1999
  • National Science Foundation New Faculty Fellow, 1998
  • Excellence in Teaching Assistance, Oakland University, 1998
  • De Vlieg Graduate Fellowship, Oakland University, 1996-98
  • Mary Kay Davis Literary Award, Oakland University, 1994
  • Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Academic Achievement, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Oakland University, (two awards), Fall 1993 and Winter, 1994
  • First Place, Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference Literary Awards, 1990
  • Graduation cum laude in Electrical Engineering, University of Washington, l986
  • Electric Energy Scholarship (two awards), Electric Energy Industrial Consortium, l985-86
  • Antarctic Services Medal, National Science Foundation, l984
  • Distinguished Military Scholar and Graduate, U.S. Army, l977
  • Graduation with Distinction in Slavic Languages and Literature, University of Washington, 1977
  • Association of the United States Army Award, 1976
  • All-Army In-Service ROTC Scholarship, U.S. Army, 1975

Further information

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 Oakley's 2022 speaking fees

Barbara travels from:
  • United States

Specific fees fall within the ranges shown. These are presented as a guide only and are subject to change without notice.

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