FAU Graduate Leading the Way for Women in Tech

By kelsie weekes | 5/2/2018

Océane Boulais, a self-described “theater geek,” took one engineering class during her freshman year at FAU just to tell her parents she had tried it. With every intention of pursuing a theater degree, she did not expect that the engineering class would leave her feeling as fulfilled as it did. Fast forward a couple of years later to when tech companies sought out this young woman as she completed internships with NBC Universal and Facebook. And now, on Thursday, May 3 at 1 p.m., she will graduate cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Boulais, 23, first navigated the engineering world through several student organizations, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) FAU chapter, the Engineering Student Council, and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. As a founding member of the IEEE Power and Energy Society at FAU and the IEEE Region 3 student representative for three years, she assisted in planning and organizing the annual IEEE Southeast Conference.

“Getting involved and taking on leadership roles was vital to me,” she said. “I was able to secure internships with a variety of institutions and companies because of the networking I did at conferences and events.”

In 2015, Boulais served as a research fellow in the Pratt School of Electrical Engineering at Duke University where she optimized organic solar cells. In 2016, she completed an internship with NBC Universal where she created tools for other developers to use to track code. Her final internship was this past summer with Facebook, where she served as a manufacturing hardware engineering intern.

“I basically built a device to analyze the power circuitry onboard Facebook data servers,” she said. “My prototype will tell you the life cycle of the server.”

Despite choosing a technical career path, Boulais is still passionate about the arts. In 2015, she gave a TEDx talk about the importance of art in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, also known as STEAM. She also is a mentor for Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that encourages and supports young women interested in STEAM education and careers.

“There has never been a better time to be a girl in tech,” she said.

Maria Petrie, Ph.D., a professor in FAU’s Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is inspired by Boulais’ passion for wanting to make the world a better place.

“She is an academic adventurer, eager to explore new topics not covered in the curriculum and always seeking experiences that make her grow as a human being and as a leader,” Petrie said. “It’s exciting for me to see what she has accomplished and how many other students she has challenged to excel and seek extraordinary opportunities.”

In 2016, the FAU Alumni Association recognized Boulais with the FAU Talon Award, given to outstanding leaders in the University community. She also recently received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Leadership from the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Following her graduation from FAU, Boulais will attend graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she will conduct research with the Viral Communications group at the MIT Media Lab.

“I’ve learned that there are opportunities everywhere, even if you have to build your own door to get there,” she said, “I love that FAU was a blank canvas, and I was able to create my own path.”