WCW Steminist Spotlight: Dr. Lan Xiang

Dr. Lan Xiang uses her skills and experience to teach electrical engineering at MC and serve the community.


Photo by Hilary Schwab Photography/Courtesy of Montgomery College

Dr. Lan Xiang teaches Electrical Engineering at Montgomery College

Graham Cole, Staff Writer

Engineering has long been a male-dominated field.  While women still receive only a small percentage of the total degrees awarded in computer science and engineering, over the last decade there was a noticeable increase in the number of degrees in engineering received by women.

The Society of Women Engineers report a 54% increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women between 2011 – 2016. These women of engineering are breaking out of the stereotypes that confine them and are paving a path for generations of younger women to follow.

At Montgomery College, Dr. Lan Xiang is a professor who has taught numerous young women and men how to become electrical engineers for 17 years.  Xiang came to Montgomery College in 2003 after earning her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.  Since, in addition to learning about computer programming and electrical circuits, her students acquire critical life skills from her many challenging group projects.

Professor Xiang’s talents are not confined within the walls of the classroom or laboratory nor defined solely by her professional interest in signal processing.  The community that welcomed Xiang as a teacher now benefits from her regular charity.

With her two children, Xiang volunteers at local shelters and food banks, and occasionally assists her children with building computers for less fortunate families. Xiang views these family activities as transferring to her children her sense of service to the community.

Reflecting on her notion of service, Dr. Xiang remarked, “Learning is unlimited and throughout my lifetime I have learned that education doesn’t always take place in classrooms. I learned the value of community service together with my children.”

Her son now in college and her daughter only a few years away from going, Dr. Xiang envisions not only a brighter future for her children but also for her students.

When asked about the future, Xiang expressed hope that “all the faculty at MC comes together with one clear goal of how to serve our students better.”

Part of serving her students involves preparing them for transfer to a four-year institution. Professor Xiang remains committed to ensuring that Montgomery College stays up to date with rapidly changing technology.

Students in her ENEE140, 150, 207 and 245 classes get personal attention when writing code or building circuits. Her courses provide the foundation on which many students will build as they progress toward a bachelor’s degree.

Like many women in the field of engineering, Dr. Xiang had to overcome many obstacles to get where she is at today.

The advice she offers to young women studying engineering is “that society will tell you that math is not cool for girls, don’t believe it. I loved math and physics when I was in high school and I pursued my passions intensely.”

In Dr. Xiang’s programming classes, when students complete typing their first few lines of code, they will see the phrase “Hello, World!” on a computer screen with a cursor flashing next to it. What they do next will depend on their individual passions and how they pursue them.