It is with great sadness that I write this. Long-time CE-CERT Board member Roberta J. Nichols passed away on Sunday, April 3rd. Roberta's life was an inspiration to many, not only to women in engineering but also to those of us who had the privilege of working with her on projects that provoked and showcased her passion — for cars, for education, for alternative fuels, for her family. She was truly an amazing woman.
She received her Ph.D. in Engineering from USC in 1979, while raising a family and working in the aerospace industry. She retired from Ford Motor Company in 1995, after a 19-year career working on alternative fuels. She was a Fellow the Society of Automotive Engineers, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Society of Women Engineers, and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Her many awards include the National Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers in 1988; the Gene Ecklund Award, U.S. Department of Energy, 1996; and the Clean Air Award for Advancing Air Pollution Technology, SCAQMD, 1989. She is the author or co-author of over 60 publications. She is also the holder of three patents for the Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV).
Her hobbies included drag boat racing, time trial racing at Bonneville Salt
Flats, and later vintage car racing. She had a great sense of humor and a
strong knowledge of herself. In a speech that she gave to the Society of
Women Engineers in March, she stated,
Not all of us get to realize our
dreams, but it is important to have them and never give up trying to attain
them. It is amazing what can happen when you want something bad enough.
For me, that is truly reflective of how she lived her life. No challenge too
small, no goal too large.
Roberta played a pivotal role in the development and success of CE-CERT. Her wisdom will be truly missed. Her devotion to CE-CERT and our students will continue through her generous creation of a scholarship at UCR to encourage women in mechanical engineering. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Roberta Nichols Yakel Scholarship Fund through the UCR Foundation.
Matthew J. Barth