Villanova University has appointed its first female dean of engineering.

Michele Marcolongo, a professor and department head at Drexel University with more than three decades as an academic, will take the post July 31, Villanova said.

Women traditionally have been underrepresented in engineering and other STEM fields. Nationwide, only 17% of engineering deans in the United States are women, according to Research and Trends for Women in STEM.

A professor of materials science and engineering, Marcolongo has served as associate vice provost for research, a senior associate vice provost, and an associate dean in the past. She also was cochair of Drexel’s strategic planning process in 2018, and has advised or mentored more than 200 graduate and undergraduate students at Drexel, the university said in announcing her appointment.

Her research has focused on biomaterials and engineered biomedical solutions to treat disease. She also has cofounded three biomedical technology startup companies, and co-holds 15 patents and patent applications.

“Our search for a new dean centered on finding an individual who champions innovative teaching and scholarship, appreciates the opportunities of engineering to positively impact society, and has extensive experience working with major research corporations and agencies,” provost Patrick G. Maggitti said in a statement.

Marcolongo began her career at General Electric Aerospace and previously worked as a biomedical engineer at DePuy DuPont Orthopaedics. She has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware, a master’s from Drexel, and a doctorate in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania.