Initially interested in pursuing a career in mathematics, Sandra J. Cynar, PhD, was encouraged to go into engineering by the wife of a family friend, who was a mathematician. She began her professional career as a controls engineer at General Dynamics in Pomona, California, in 1963, remaining in this position until 1965 when she entered the management training program at Pacific Telephone in Alhambra, California. In 1966, she served as a scientific programmer in the Apollo program at North American Rockwell in Downey, California. Two years later, she went to McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, California, to work on the DC-10 until 1970, when she had her son and stopped working to raise her family. When it was time for her to go back to work, Dr. Cynar decided to go into education in order to have more time with her son. That was the best decision ever, and provided her with the most challenging and fulfilling career she could have asked for.
Dr. Cynar began her engineering career working on surface to air missile systems, the Apollo lunar program and the DC-10 landing system. After her son started school, she continued on her professional path and joined California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) as a lecturer in 1977. In 1986 she was hired as a tenure track professor in the computer engineering and computer science (CECS) department at CSULB in the College of Engineering. She was elected as the first woman department chair in the COE in 1995 and served three terms until 2004. She served as associate dean of the college and ended her CSULB career as the interim dean, again serving as the first woman in both of those positions in the COE. Additionally, Dr. Cynar was active with Simulation and Engineering Education, serving as a session chair at the 1991 conference in San Diego, and as the faculty advisor for the very successful Micro Mouse team from 1987 to 1995 and an advisor for the Society of Women Engineers from 1988 to 1994. During her entire career, she was actively engaged in outreach to encourage girls to enter engineering. In 2006, she was awarded the Advancement of Women Award from the CSULB President’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Prior to her career, Dr. Cynar pursued a formal education at CSULB, earning a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1963 and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1978. She then matriculated to the University of California Irvine, where she attained a PhD in electrical engineering, making her the first woman to attain a PhD in engineering at UCI, in 1986. She authored one book, “Numerical Methods for Engineers,” and has contributed several articles to professional journals. Her research in computer graphics led to her creation of the animated films “Tuned Pendulum” in 1988 and “Solution of Ode’s” in 1989. Dr. Cynar received funding for several grants in curriculum development, undergraduate research and undergraduate scholarship funding from 1997 through 2004.
In addition to her primary trade, Dr. Cynar is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest association of technical professionals. Likewise, she has been involved with the Society of Computer Simulation, the National Computer Graphics Association, the American Society of Engineering Education and the Association for Computing Machinery. Dr. Cynar received the Excellence in Teaching Award from TRW in 1992. In addition, she was selected for inclusion in the third edition of Who’s Who in American Education and several editions of Who’s Who in Science and Engineering and Who’s Who in the World.
Having completed the PhD, Dr. Cynar felt that if she had to live her life over again, she wouldn’t repeat the PhD program. Receiving a doctorate later in her life was not easy. However, now that she is retired, all of the things that she has done after a doctorate would not have happened if it were not for that degree. Dr. Cynar is grateful to her husband Raymond for enduring her adventurous career, Gene Hostetter for encouraging her to enter both the master’s and PhD programs, and to Michael Mahoney for career advice.