Katherine Herrick (BSE MSE PhD EE ‘93 ‘95 ‘00) is the 2020 recipient of the ECE Alumni Merit Award, which recognizes mid-career alumni who are leaders in their field.
Herrick is a Senior Fellow and Director of Advanced Enabling Technology at Raytheon Company, which specializes in defense, civil government, and cybersecurity solutions. She joined Raytheon right after completing her doctoral degree in 2000.
“I really enjoy working with state-of-the-art technologies and innovating,” Herrick said. “And getting to shape what kinds of contracts we go after definitely appealed to me.”
Herrick was encouraged to pursue engineering by her father, Don Herrick, who earned an MSE in Electrical Engineering and Math from U-M in 1975. While an undergrad, she took a summer research opportunity in the Radiation Lab with Prof. Linda Katehi. This experience inspired her to continue onto graduate school.
As a graduate student, Herrick joined Katehi’s research group and worked on microwave and millimeter-wave micromachined circuits for communications applications. Her group dominated many of the professional conferences and won so many student awards that they were nicknamed “the Michigan Mafia.”
“Michigan really instilled in me the importance of being able to articulate and communicate the value of your work to other people,” Herrick said. “That’s been threaded throughout my whole career.”
Michigan really instilled in me the importance of being able to articulate and communicate the value of your work to other people.Dr. Katherine Herrick
In addition to her technical achievements, Herrick is passionate about supporting women and underrepresented minorities so they may thrive in engineering.
“I think we lack, in many cases, that diversity of thought,” Herrick said. “For engineering to work, you need all different perspectives and different types of people with different backgrounds.”
Herrick said that while some progress has been made, overall, toxic work environments and microaggressions are all too common, which further drive women and minorities away from the field.
“It’s important to not downplay the challenges,” Herrick said. “There are lots of small things that can happen that can make someone feel that they’re not a part of the group. And if you don’t feel like you’re a part of the group, then you can feel like you’re being told to leave the group.”
Collaborative, respectful environments are more successful today at attracting and retaining talent from people of all backgrounds, Herrick said. As such, Raytheon has begun instituting more inclusive policies, like paid paternity leave, which can help lessen societal burdens on women, who are more likely to be punished for choosing to have a family.
“People are going to respond to places where they feel appreciated and valued,” Herrick said. “So creating that inclusive environment is really important to me.”
Herrick’s honors include the 2008 Outstanding Young Engineer Award of the IEEE MTT-S, the 2008 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering, and the 2007 Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems President’s Award. She is a Senior Member of IEEE, has published over 50 technical papers, and holds several patents in the areas of antennas, RF MEMS packaging, and microwave circuits. She serves on the ECE Advisory Council.