We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
Are you looking for literary inspiration? Maybe you need a reason to hit the books or focus a bit harder during your following lecture. Professors themselves can serve as excellent sources of passion and can be your guide as you determine the best path forward in your studies. However, the best female professors in America can especially ignite every young woman’s fervor and inspire greatness.
In 1675, Sir Isaac Newton penned a letter to a fellow scientist – “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” All of us have seen further and have learned more because of the professors who have taught us.
Do you have a favorite educator or professor? If not, get inspired by these six female professors in America.
1. Temple Grandin
Dr. Temple Grandin teaches animal science at Colorado State University. She is also an activist for the humane treatment of livestock animals and lectures about this topic extensively. When Gradin was just three, she was diagnosed with autism. However, because resources were limited in the 1950s, her parents considered institutionalizing her – thankfully, they did not.
Though Grandin faced many challenges, she eventually attended college and went on to get her doctorate. Now, she serves as a role model for many, placing her at the top of the list for the best female professors in America. She’s written a bestselling book, she has a TED Talk, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and she’s the subject of a miniseries starring Claire Daines. Most importantly, Dr. Gradin is happy teaching her students at Colorado State University where she plans on educating until she no longer can.
2. Angela P. Harris
Professor of Law at University of California Davis
Professor Angela Harris is a legal scholar and law professor at the University of California Davis School of Law. Her fields of study include feminist legal scholarship, critical race theory, and criminal law. Professor Harris writes extensively on these subjects, publishing many essays and influential articles. Her works have been translated into several languages.
Dr. Harris works tirelessly with students, mentoring countless law majors and junior faculty throughout her tenure. Her efforts with students led to founding the Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies – a joint venture between faculty and students that promotes academics, education, and a community discussion on race and ethnicity.
3. Barbara Harbach
Professor of Music at the University of Missouri–St. Louis
A talented composer, organist, and harpsichordist, Dr. Barbara Harbach is also a music professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. To celebrate the success of her female counterparts, she began Women in the Arts, a festival to showcase the talents of other women composers. Each year, the St. Louis festival highlights the success of women creators throughout history and into the present day.
Dr. Harbach was awarded one of the 30 most innovative women professors in 2016. She also holds the title of the number one female organist. Dr. Harbach’s dedication to the arts and her students will leave a lasting legacy in the education community.
4. Dava J. Newman
Dr. Dava Newman teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Apollo Program Professor, in the Aeronautics and Astronautics division. Her primary research is in advanced spacesuit design, and she’s well known for developing a second skin BioSuit.
If that wasn’t cool enough, Dr. Newman is an astronaut. In 1996-1998, she flew aboard the Russian Space Station and researched microgravity experiments. In 2015, President Obama nominated Dr. Newman as NASA’s Deputy Administrator. She served in the position for two years.
5. Lixia Zhang
When it comes to her work on the internet, Dr. Lixia Zhang is legendary. As a graduate student at MIT, her goal was to help the internet grow. Dr. Zhang certainly accomplished this feat and many more achievements. She is a general expert in computer networking, she assisted the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1986, and she invented the term “middlebox.”
In 2018, based on the publication H-Index, Dr. Zhang was identified as one of the top 100 Computer Scientists in the United States. Additionally, in 2020, she received the SIGCOMM Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in Internet development.
6. Maja Matarić
Dr. Maja Matarić teaches at the University of Southern California. Her research currently dominates the field of socially assistive robotics (SAR), which aims to provide personalized robotic therapy and care through communal interaction. Dr. Matarić seeks to empower automated technology to care for communities that often need social interaction, like seniors, autistic children, patients who have recently suffered a stroke, or others who need recovery.
Dr. Matarić has received many accolades throughout her career, including the Presidential Award in 2009 for her excellent work in Science, Mathematics & Engineering Mentoring. Dr. Matarić focuses on the future of STEM and the promising future of careers for women and other underrepresented groups. She partners with K-12 educators and students, investing in their classrooms and mentoring their students.
Feel Inspired By the Best Female Professors in America
Whatever your area of interest or your major, discover what makes you passionate about your field. While in school, try to find a mentor to help you fuel your curiosity and make connections in your industry. Networking with a professor is an excellent way to learn more about your academic interests and pursue a career after graduation.