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Ideas for Everyday Life

computer science / alumni

With more than 600 patent applications filed and 300 granted for improving everyday life, Lisa Seacat DeLuca is IBM’s most prolific female inventor.

Most recently, six of them have been scooped up by Snap, the social media company that recently began trading on The New York Stock Exchange. One of the patents, US8825778, enables selective display of past instant messages as well as establishing an instant messaging session among at least two participants.

The Carnegie Mellon University alumna also has what she calls “fun side projects,” such as a LaundryNFC, which provides an NFC tag for a home’s washing machine and dryer that sends a cell phone notification when a load of laundry is done.

“I want to be challenged, to do things,” said DeLuca, who earned her undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science in 2005.

DeLuca is part of the IBM Watson Customer Engagement incubator team, which is developing proof-of-concepts for new commerce solutions. Watson, a cognitive system that uses artificial intelligence techniques, was developed in part by Carnegie Mellon faculty and students. After hours, she uses her technological savvy to come up with a plethora of inventions.

Her creativity has received widespread recognition. She is among the 25 Most Influential Women in IoT by the Internet of Things Institute and has been named to MIT’s 35 Innovators Under 35. She is also one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People.

DeLuca’s drive was apparent when she was a student at Carnegie Mellon. While majoring in the rigorous computer science program, she minored in multimedia production and business administration, and participated in two varsity sports: basketball and volleyball. She also found love. At a campus event, DeLuca’s sister caught the eye of a classmate. Although she didn’t know him, DeLuca was happy to make the introduction.

“Luckily, he wasn’t interested in my sister,” she jokingly recalled. She ended up marrying that classmate, Steve DeLuca, who earned his undergraduate degree in biological sciences from the Mellon College of Science in 2004. (Today, he is a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science.)

DeLuca credits her success at IBM to the Carnegie Mellon network, including faculty member Mark Stehlik.

“He was so supportive, particularly helping us as new freshmen coming into the department,” DeLuca said. “He took us all under his wing.”

“Lisa is very outgoing and engaging, a good student — and a good volleyball player,” said Stehlik, now assistant dean for outreach in the School of Computer Science. “She even helped me coach an elementary school girls’ volleyball team.”

Now a mother of four, with two sets of preschool twins, DeLuca has branched out into writing children’s books to help nurture science-related interests. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, her second book, Internet of Mysterious Things, will be released this spring.

Deluca said she dreams of earning IBM’s highest technical achievement, becoming an IBM Fellow like Carnegie Mellon alumnus John Cohn, who is a pioneer in chip design automation and a 2014 Carnegie Mellon Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award recipient.

She said she would be honored to emulate her “amazing” mentor.

Cohn returns the compliment.

“Lisa is such an inspiration to me and so many others,” Cohn said. “She's endlessly curious and creative. She’s always showing me great ideas. I consider her to be one of my best peer mentors.”