Gilda A. Barabino became the second president of Olin College of Engineering, and Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, on July 1, 2020.
Previously she served as Dean of The Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York (CCNY). She also served as Daniel and Frances Berg Professor, with appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering, as well as the City University of New York School of Medicine.
A biomedical engineer trained in chemical engineering, with broad interest in global health, systems, and interdisciplinary engineering education, Dr. Barabino is a noted investigator in the areas of sickle cell disease, cellular and tissue engineering. She is an internationally recognized thought leader and highly sought speaker and consultant on race/ethnicity and gender in science and engineering, with particular focus on creating cultures and climates that support a sense of belonging. She has led a number of initiatives in these areas including serving as the founder and Executive Director of the National Institute for Faculty Equity.
Before joining CCNY, she served as Associate Chair for Graduate Studies and Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. She also served as Georgia Tech’s inaugural Vice Provost for Academic Diversity. Prior to that, she spent 18 years at Northeastern University, rising to the rank of Full Professor of Chemical Engineering and serving as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.
Dr. Barabino is an active member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine and serves on numerous committees of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, including the Roundtable on Black Men and Black Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine; the Health and Medicine Division Committee; and the Committee on Women in Science Engineering and Medicine which she chairs. Dr. Barabino also serves as a member of the National Institutes of Health’s National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Engineering; the congressionally mandated Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering; and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy. Dr. Barabino also serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub.
Her many honors include the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Award for Service to Society (2019); the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (2018); the Pierre Galetti Award (2017), the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering’s highest honor; and an honorary degree from Xavier University of Louisiana (2016).
Dr. Barabino is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the Biomedical Engineering Society.
She sits on the board of trustees for VentureWell, Associated Universities, Inc., New York Hall of Science and Xavier University of Louisiana.
Dr. Barabino earned her B.S. degree in Chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Rice University.
She is married to Joseph Barabino. They have a son, Jori.
As a first grader, Gilda attended school in Dover, Delaware. She recalls her teacher not believing that she was born in Anchorage, Alaska, even as she explained that her father was in the Air Force and that’s where he was stationed at the time. Military assignments took the family across the country and included a short stint in Germany.
For high school, Gilda attended Benjamin Franklin, an exam school founded in 1957 as a school for the gifted children of New Orleans. While at Franklin, Gilda began taking college courses, starting with calculus and chemistry. She decided to major in chemistry in part, because her high school chemistry teacher left her with the impression that chemistry was not meant for girls.
Xavier University of Louisiana was founded in 1925 by St. Katherine Drexel and the Sisters of the blessed Sacrament for the education of African Americans. Xavier ranks first in the nation in producing Black students who apply to and graduate from medical school and initially Gilda was among those majoring in pre med.
Turning to engineering as a means of pursuing a medically-oriented career as a scientist rather than as a clinician, Gilda entered the graduate program in chemical engineering at Rice University. She was the first African American to be accepted to and graduate from chemical engineering at Rice. Notably, Rice University accepted its first African American undergraduate and graduate students in 1965. Seeking to apply engineering to medicine and give back to her community, Gilda began her career-long research in sickle cell disease. Gilda’s son, Jori was born when Gilda was completing her PhD thesis.
Gilda began her academic career as an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Northeastern University becoming the first African American female to hold a tenure track position in chemical engineering. While at Northeastern she rose to the rank of full professor and served as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.
When Gilda joined the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, she was the first African American female hired into the department. While at GaTech, Gilda also served as Associate Chair for Graduate Studies and the inaugural Vice Provost for Academic Diversity.
Continuing a series of firsts, Gilda became the first African American female to serve as Dean of Engineering at an institution that was not a historically black college or university (HBCU) when she was appointed as Dean of the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York (CCNY) of the City University of New York (CUNY). At CCNY, she held appointments in Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and the CUNY School of Medicine.
In 2016, Gilda was awarded an honorary doctorate by her alma mater, Xavier University of Louisiana. Gilda currently serves on Xavier’s Board of Trustees.
As the second president of the Olin College of Engineering, Gilda leads an institution founded in 1997 to be an important and constant contributor to the advancement of engineering education.