Wanda Gass

Wanda Gass

DSP Systems Group, Texas Instruments

Inducted in 2003

I have lived in Dallas my entire life, except during the years that I went to school at Rice University and Duke University to earn my college degrees. I am the younger of two children. My sister is about a year older than me.

I have always liked math and science. My dad was a petroleum engineer who graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. I really respected my father and, while I was growing up, saw what he did at work and from him knew a little about what the life of an engineer was like. I figured out from a young age that there were different versions of engineering, but wasn't exact sure about which path I would take.

When I was in high school, there were no clubs for girls who were interested in engineering so I joined the Explorer's Club. This club, which was like the Boy Scouts, was created for boys but I didn't mind. Although I was the only girl, I really enjoyed the club. We met once a week at an engineering company in Dallas and would learn about logic design and other things that engineers do.

After graduating from high school in Dallas, I went to Rice University in Houston and earned a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering. At Rice, a student could choose one of four specialties within Electrical Engineering and I chose the bio-medical specialty. My senior project was a sample data project focused on kidney dialysis. This project provided a portable form of kidney dialysis which enabled a continuous cleaning of the blood stream rather than infrequent treatments that were available at that time. The continuous cleaning process was much less traumatic and therefore less painful for the patients.

After finishing my Bachelor's degree, I had a summer job working at a rehabilitation center in the University's Medical Center. This center was designed to help people who had injuries or illnesses that kept them from fully functioning. In this job, I created instruments and devices that helped the patients go through rehabilitation. I developed a circuit design for an amplifier that recorded signals and feed them to a computer where decisions were made.

I had seriously thought about going to medical school during my entire college career, but when I was a senior at Rice decided not to. At that point in my life, I had determined that being a medical doctor just wasn't the thing for me. I found out at little while later that this was a good decision.

While working at Rice University's Medical Center during the summer after I graduated with my Bachelor's degree, I ran into a fellow student who asked me if I would like to see a cadaver they were working on as part of a class project. I really didn't want to see it. At this point, I realized that I really wanted to help people, but I hadn't thought about the details behind it. Since I had applied to both graduate school and medical school, I was able to immediately pursue the graduate school option.

That fall, I went to Duke University and spent two years at Duke earning my Master's degree in Engineering with a focus on bio-medical. The project for my Master's thesis analyzed hearts to define damaged heart tissue using ultrasound. I used image processing to detect if a person previously had a heart attack by seeing if the heart muscles were moving or contracting. I created a computer program to do that, worked with doctors in a hospital and built a board that plugged into a computer where the program ran.

While at Rice, I met my husband Richard. We dated long distance while I went to Duke. After I graduated, I wanted to come back to Dallas or Houston to be near Richard so I interviewed with several companies in those cities. My background at this point was in ultrasound, so I interviewed for some hospital jobs and with medical equipment companies. These types of companies seemed to be a good potential fit for me.

During this time, I also interviewed with Texas Instruments (TI) and ultimately decided to take a position with TI in Houston. I liked the TI offer because I would be doing design as part of a microprocessor design team and would be able to use my knowledge of digital signal processing theory.

In my first position at TI in 1980, I worked with a small team doing circuit design on TI's first digital signal processor (DSP). This product ultimately created the first commercially viable DSP, which repositioned TI's business focus around DSP and changed the electronics industry because without the DSP things like cell phones would not be possible. I also co-invented three early DSP patents with TI and developed a DSP board.

I worked in Houston for two years then moved to Dallas in 1982 and worked at TI on assembly language programming for speech recognition and speaker authentication as a member of TI's corporate Research & Development (R&D) group.

While in R&D my work included the development of high-level synthesis tools. I became a manager of the research group in 1990 where I lead a team that worked on compilers, DSP processor architectures and several designs with video compression.

My first daughter was born in 1989 and my second daughter in 1992. I decided to continue working after my children were born and stayed in research and development until 1998. I had always thought I would quit working after my children were born. But, when the time came, I decided to continue working and focusing on creating a proper work/life balance. This is not the right choice for everyone, but it has been the right choice for me.

In 1998, I moved into TI's wireless business to do architecture definition for low-power DSPs and worked in the wireless business until 2001. During that time, I became a TI Fellow which is part of TI's Technical Ladder. The purpose of the TI Technical Ladder is to recognize and reward TI's best technical talent. The Technical Ladder provides opportunities for personal recognition, compensation and reporting levels paralleling those for equivalent rungs on the management ladder. Only one percent of TI's technical population is awarded the TI Fellow title.

In 2001, I joined TI's DSP Systems group to do processor design with high performance DSPs and I continue to work in this group today. I have three people on my team.

Outside of work, I am passionate about my daughters, my community and the Women of TI Fund. My oldest daughter is now in college and my youngest is in high school. I am very involved in my church, where I teach Sunday school and English as second language.

I am one of the first 10 founders of the Women of TI Fund and remain active on the fundraising and program side. The Women of TI Fund is a donor-advised fund in partnership with the Dallas Women's Foundation. The fund's mission is to increase the number of girls graduating from high school who are entering a university-level technical degree program.

I am also an active member of IEEE, an organization that helps educate and promote semiconductor industry standards and publications, new research and insights inspiring innovation and cross fertilization of information around the world. In 2007, I was elevated to IEEE Fellow. I play an active role in helping to plan IEEE conferences around the world, where people present the latest and greatest developments and research ideas.

I joined IEEE the first year I started working at TI. I was initially active in the association's signal processing society, and am now more active in the solid state circuit society which is focused on integrated circuit design.

In addition to my patents, I have been published 25 times and have endowed a scholarship at Rice University for women in engineering. I continue to pursue my passion of helping people and act as a role model for women going into technical career paths. A lot of people helped me get to where I am today and I want to continue to give back and help others.

Profile at the time of induction in 2003