Deidra Hodges Named Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering | FIU News

Deidra Hodges Named Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering |  FIU News

Deidra Hodges, an associate professor specializing in photovoltaics and solar energy, has been named chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at FIU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. She is the first black professor to hold the position of department chair at the college.

“During her relatively short time with us, Dr. Hodges has already become a highly respected educator and role model for our diverse CRF community, which is critical to our goal of increasing minority representation in the field,” said John L. Volakis, dean of the college. “With her experience in academia and industry, her research initiatives, and her collaboration with laboratories and government agencies, she will continue to lead the department in its development of technologies that will have a significant impact throughout the world.”

Hodges joined FIU in the fall of 2021. She holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University in New York. She earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and electrical engineering through a dual degree program between Dillard University in New Orleans and Columbia University.

Her graduate training led her into industry, where she programmed avionics flight software for NASA while working for IBM. She also worked for the aerospace/defense company Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin. Hodges served as an officer in the United States Naval Reserve for five years and taught at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia, and the University of Texas at El Paso. At FIU, Hodges continues his research in the field of photovoltaics ― technologies for converting light into electricity ― as well as solar and other renewable energies. She is also a mentor professor on diversity at the Office for the Advancement of Women, Equity and Diversity.

Hodges grew up in New Orleans with a father who was a chemistry teacher and a mother who was a high school biology teacher. and five siblings. Learn a bit more about her below.

How did a childhood dream lead to your career today?

I had a childhood wish to one day have solar panels on my roof. As a teenager, I just thought it was so cool. Eventually, I got my solar panels back. But it was this interest that led me to the energy research I do now. And I like to show students that we can have an impact, that we can develop solutions to our problems. It is very rewarding.

You have worked in industry, served in the United States Naval Reserve, conducted numerous research projects and taught. How have all of these experiences prepared you for your roles at the FIU?

Each position has added to my knowledge or skills in some way. The army allowed me to travel the country to train, improve my mediation skills and develop my discipline. The industry gave me the opportunity to collaborate with others and work on exciting projects like avionics flight software. Academics taught me how to get research grants, develop labs, and hire students. These are tools and skills that I bring to CRF.

As chair of the electrical engineering department at FIU, what are your priorities?

I am very new to this work and like the vision of our becoming a preeminent state and the Top 50 program. I would like to see growth in research and research funding, and I would like us to attract more doctorates. and post-docs. As an African American woman in engineering, I’ve always been the stat. In my youth, I responded emotionally to discrimination. As I matured, I realized that to change our institutions, workplaces, and neighborhoods, we needed more diversity, a more welcoming environment, and a pipeline to attract more underrepresented minorities. These are important initiatives for me as Department Chair and Diversity Mentor Professor at the Office of Advancement of Women, Equity and Diversity.

What was your reaction when you were named the first black chair in a department at the College of Engineering and Computing?

I literally cried. I knew it was a historic moment. I am honored to have received the faculty vote and now I will do my best to lead the department as well as possible.

What do you like to do when you’re not in the lab or teaching?

I like planting and gardening. Fighting food insecurity is another interest of mine and I enjoy finding ways to grow food in extreme environments. When I lived in Georgia, I could sow seeds and grow anything easily. But in El Paso, there was very little water, so I started working on a solar-powered hydroponic shipping container. These containers can go anywhere. I am already planning my mini shipping container garden for my garden here. As a newcomer, I love Miami and hope to enjoy all there is to do here.