Zonta honors Amelia Earhart

On January 29th, the Zonta Club of Conejo Valley Area hosted an Amelia Earhart Fellowship event in Newbury Park. One of Zonta International’s 2021 Amelia Earhart Fellowship recipients, Jenny Smith, wasn’t able to attend our conference in Costa Mesa a few months ago, so she was honored at this beautiful luncheon.

Fellow Zontians from the Zonta Clubs of Conejo Valley, Burbank, Santa Clarita Valley including a member of the Zonta Club of Freiburg, Germany were in attendance. Plus, local community members including members from the 99ers also joined us.

Dr. Sharon Langenbeck, ZI President, Amelia Earhart Fellow alumni and member of the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley, started the event by sharing the history of AE fellowship.  Learning about the inception, the first fellow and even stories when Sharon received the fellowship twice.

The Amelia Earhart Fellowship is a Zonta International program funded by contributions to the Zonta Foundation for Women. At 84 years old, it is the longest running Zonta International service project. This project was started to honor fellow Zontian and renowned pilot, Amelia Earhart. The idea of an education award was proposed by the Zonta Club of Bakersfield.

Rose Elizabeth Lunn, a doctoral student in aeronautical engineering at MIT was the first recipient in 1940. She went on to accomplish many firsts for remarkable things. In 1941, she was the head of Vibration and Flutter Department at Curtiss Wright Corp. Then in 1942, Rose was the head of Vibration and Flutter Group at North American Aviation. Plus, she started and managed her own vibration laboratory and an analog computer facility.

The fellowship encourages women to expand their career options beyond traditional boundaries. Amelia Earhart advocated for improving the status of women, inspired women to pursue non-traditional roles, and even counseled women in their careers as a Purdue visiting faculty member.

The Amelia Earhart Fellowships are awarded annually to women pursuing a Ph.D./doctoral degree conducting research applied to aerospace engineering or space sciences.

Jenny Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in Astrophysics Instrumentation at UC Santa Barbara. She shared about the Mazin Lab, which is a part of the department of Physics at UCSB. They are focused on using a unique detector technology called Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors, known as MKID. It allows them to determine the energy and arrival time of individual photons without read noise or dark current. The application of this technology spans a wide range of vital research areas like detecting planets around stars and detecting dark matter.

The event ended with a raffle, with donations supporting the Conejo Valley Zonta Foundation scholarships and anti-domestic violence program (ZTAP).

Ms. Smith’s doctoral work aims to improve microwave kinetic inductance detector (MKID) array performance while reducing the volume, weight and power of the readout electronics to increase technological readiness for space flight. MKIDs are a revolutionary detector technology that can simultaneously report the location, energy and arrival time of photons. MKIDs are sensitive enough to count single photons while distinguishing energies across the ultraviolet, visible and infrared spectrum. The strong sensitivity, coupled with the fact that MKIDs can be fabricated into high-density, high-efficiency detector arrays, make MKIDs a primary technology target for integration into space telescopes with a broad range of science goals including detecting life on planets outside our solar system.

Ms. Smith works jointly on the superconducting analog signal chain and room temperature readout system. Her work on the analog signal chain involves developing new cryogenic microwave components and packaging to support the integration of a quantum-noise-limited amplifier to boost the MKID signal with minimal noise injection. Her work on the room temperature readout is centered around developing the next-generation data acquisition system on a newly released, analog-integrated field-programmable gate array device known as a radio frequency system-on-chip (RFSoC). Migrating digital signal processing to the RFSoC device will dramatically decrease the weight, size and power of the readout electronics and support efforts to deploy MKIDs in space.

Ms. Smith is a strong advocate for building supportive communities for women and enjoys planning and hosting events through the UCSB Women in Physics group. She also has fun sharing her excitement about technology research and development and space exploration with middle-school and high-school students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In her spare time, she appreciates taking her dog to the beach, tending to her dragon fruit plants, spending time with friends and playing volleyball.