USA. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Honored with Society of Women Engineers 2006 Fellow Membership Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 October 2006
Award news:

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has announced Michele Fitzpatrick, lieutenant commander (LCDR) a 2006 fellow member of the Society. Fitzpatrick is being recognized for successfully breaking gender barriers in a military academy and the U.S. Coast Guard, thereby paving the way for future women engineers, and for ongoing and diligent support of the Society of Women Engineers.

Michele Fitzpatrick is currently a graduate student and research assistant in the geophysics department at the University of Connecticut. Fitzpatrick’s dissertation work involves analyzing earthquake signals to study the structure of the Earth’s deep interior. She serves on the Geosciences Planning Committee and works with professors from a variety of departments to design the future geosciences program at the University.

Prior to returning to academics, Fitzpatrick served a 20-year career at the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) before retiring in 2003. Before retiring, Fitzpatrick served as assistant professor of physics for the USCG Academy. In this position, Fitzpatrick taught classical mechanics and electricity and magnetism. She also helped to develop and activities-based version of these courses.

“Michele Fitzpatrick has had an impressive—and significant—career in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy,” says Jude Garzolini, president of the Society of Women Engineers. “She made history in 1976 by being one of the first women to enter one of the nation’s four military academies, and she continues to strive for excellence beyond retirement as she pursues a doctorate degree in geophysics. She is truly an inspiration for women engineers and students everywhere.”

Fitzpatrick advanced through various capacities during her 20-year career at USCG. She began as engineering officer in training, POLAR SEA (WAGB 11) and was tasked with learning about the Icebreaker’s engineering systems during two trips to the Arctic Ocean. She also served as auxiliary machinery officer and made a six-month trip the Antarctic. Fitzpatrick then served as project officer, arctic & offshore oil spill response for USCG. In this role, Fitzpatrick was tasked with directing R&D Center efforts in Arctic and Offshore Oil Pollution studies, monitoring contractors, and establishing cooperative efforts with federal, state and Canadian oil spill research organizations. Fitzpatrick then moved into academics where she served as assistant professor of physics and astronomy for the USGA Academy. Fitzpatrick also served as project manager, team leader, and environmental engineer and was tasked with solid and hazardous waste assessment and minimization, air pollution minimization, and pollution prevention information management.

Fitzpatrick, a senior life member of SWE, has been an active member at both the local and national levels. She became very involved with the New England Shoreline Section (NESS) by serving in numerous offices, including section representative, newsletter editor, treasurer, vice president, and president. In conjunction with her regional responsibilities, Fitzpatrick became involved on SWE’s national level by serving on the Conference Program Board, the Bylaws and Nominating committees. Fitzpatrick has been active in SWE NESS career guidance activities as well as the process improvement for the section.

“In all the years I have known Michele, she has always demonstrated a strong interest in science, math, and engineering, and particularly in the success of women in these fields,” says Robert J. Fuller, dean of academics for the USCG Academy. “She entered the CG when women were just being admitted to the academy, and as a consequence she has always been aware of, and comfortable with, the responsibilities of being a positive role model – and she has always been an excellent one.”

Fitzpatrick received her B.S. degree in ocean engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, her M.S. degree in physics from the Naval Postgraduate School, and is currently working her Ph.D. degree in geophysics from the University of Connecticut. Fellow grade of membership in SWE recognizes continuous service to the advancement of women in the engineering profession. A SWE member who has been a senior member for at least eight years, or a member for at least 20 years, may be chosen a fellow of the Society.

The 2006 Fellows will be formally recognized Saturday night, October 14 at the Society of Women Engineers’ National Conference Celebrate SWE! Banquet in Kansas City, Mo. The National Conference, “Women Blazing Technology Trails,” is being held at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Mo. October 12-14. The more than 4,000 attendees include professionals from every discipline of the engineering profession and a large number of engineering students and educators. The 2007 Conference is scheduled for October 25-27 in Nashville, Tenn.

About SWE

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE), founded in 1950, is a not-for-profit educational and service organization. SWE is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women. SWE empowers women to succeed and advance in those aspirations and be recognized for their life-changing contributions and achievements as engineers and leaders. For more information about the Society please visit
Last Updated ( Thursday, 12 October 2006 )
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