Photo of Mary Shaw

Mary Shaw

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Computer Science

For pioneering leadership in the development of innovative curricula in Computer Science.

Mary Shaw on the beginnings of her programming career

An innovator in the field as well as a trailblazer in the classroom, Mary Shaw has left an indelible mark on the field of software engineering. In fact, she’s largely the reason that ‘software engineering’ is a professional field anyway!

One of the first people to earn a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon, Shaw has spent her career creating the software infrastructure that underlies modern computing processes. Just like different buildings require different kinds of support structures, computers being used for different purposes need different kinds of software to support their needs.

She is recognized as having developed the basic framework—known as software architecture—that supports everything from anti lock brakes to medical technologies to viral videos.

Not only has she revolutionized computing and software design, she has also been instrumental in the development of courses and textbooks for software engineering courses. Shaw’s book and courses are used in all levels of higher education, from undergraduate introductory courses through advanced PhD-level studies.

Though initially discouraged from pursuing her interest in computers because of her gender, Shaw says she’s “had the great good fortune to spend my professional career in a department …in which the quality of technical contributions matters vastly more than gender.” Early on, she says, “one of our founders advised me, ‘concentrate on doing great science, and other things will work out.’ As a result, I’ve been largely insulated from the male domination of the industry at large.” Shaw hopes that her high profile,and the important contributions of other women in the field will help inspire others to pursue their dreams as well.