mary lynn realff
Mary Lynn Realff
Associate Chair for Undergraduate Programs, School of Materials Science and Engineering
Co-director, Center for Women, Science, and Technology 
Director, Effective Team Dynamics Initiative 

Mary Lynn Realff


The Early Years

“I graduated from Georgia Tech in 1987 with a degree in textile engineering. I earned a Ph.D. from MIT, then joined the Georgia Tech faculty in 1992 as the first woman faculty member in textile engineering. 

In the faculty meetings there was one faculty member who would tell inappropriate jokes. Instead of getting offended, I viewed it as they just see me as another faculty, not as a woman. Although I said I didn’t say anything in that meeting, I said something later to the chair and the jokes stopped. 

I was very pleased when I became a faculty member. I was a little worried that I would come back and they would treat me like I was a student. But they were all very professional and respectful. They treated me as a colleague. We wrote proposals and worked on research together. And they mentored me around teaching. It was a very supportive environment in textile engineering. 

Some colleagues around campus weren’t having such a great experience, which is one reason why I got involved with the ADVANCE program. I was a co-principal investigator and the director for the ADVANCE institutional transformation grant from the National Science Foundation, and we were looking at ways to support and advance women faculty. 

Someone told me if you make things better for women faculty, you’ll make it better for all faculty. That really resonated with me. We helped make the tenure process more transparent, brought about changes in policies, and we put training in place that helped all faculty advance.”

Advice for Women

“I have two pieces of advice: You don’t have to do everything. And, take advantage of leadership programs and other personal development opportunities. A lot of women feel like we must do everything. We must be excellent at our job, be the primary caregiver for our children, the organizer for family reunions, and the person that everybody comes to for advice. But we don’t have to do absolutely everything. We can strategize, build teams, or hire people to help us make an impact. Also, it’s important to invest in yourself while simultaneously investing in other people, like your students. Georgia Tech has a lot of opportunities for professional development.”

Mary Lynn Realff
In 1992, Mary Lynn Realff was the first woman faculty member in textile engineering.


Celebrating 70 years of Women at Tech