Stanford has hired the first female dean of its school of engineering.
Persis Drell, 58, is a former director of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and a professor of physics at Stanford's School of Humanities and Sciences.
Drell will assume her new post Sept. 1. She will be the ninth dean since the School of Engineering was founded in 1925, succeeding Jim Plummer, who led the school for 15 years.
In a field where women are vastly outnumbered by men, Stanford hiring a woman to head its engineering school can be seen as a small step. But it's also a big deal. A major obstacle standing in the way of women pursuing engineering and computer science studies is that they don't think of it as something that girls do. Studies have shown that while boys associate computers with words such as "interesting" and "video games," girls associate them with terms like "typing," "math" and "boredom."
Having more visible female engineers is a step toward changing the perception that engineering is a masculine field, and a woman heading a school that has educated the brains behind many of Silicon Valley's most innovative companies is a good start.
Stanford and UC Berkeley have attracted more women to their revamped computer science programs.
At Stanford, female computer science enrollment has grown from 12.5 percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2013. At Cal, for the first time since at least 1993 - as far back as university records are digitized - there were more women than men in its beginning computer science class last spring.
Stanford President John Hennessy said Drell "is an accomplished researcher who has demonstrated expert leadership in guiding innovation in science and technology."
She helped transform SLAC from a lab mostly dedicated to research in high-energy physics to one considered a leader in other scientific disciplines. Drell, an accomplished particle physics researcher, has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award. --------------------------------------- Kristen V. Brown is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: kristenvbrown ********************************************