Dr. Carol Espy-Wilson is an electrical engineer and a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Maryland (UMD) at College Park. She received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987, becoming the first African-American woman to earn this degree from MIT.
Dr. Espy-Wilson was born in Atlanta, GA. She is the youngest of four children born to Mattie and Matthew Espy. Her older brothers are Stanley, Frederick and Calvin Espy. Espy-Wilson attributes much of her success to her family. Her father was a remodeling contractor and was exceptional with mathematics. She says, “he could come into a room, do all sorts of calculations in his head and tell how much material, like tile, would be needed to lay the floor.” Her father’s math ability and his strong work ethic were passed down to Espy-Wilson’s brothers, who in turn instilled in her the drive to excel. In addition, Espy-Wilson’s mother instilled the importance of faith and religion in the Espy children. Her mother taught that regardless of their current circumstance, they were called to be the best at whatever they attempted. And she challenged them to look beyond the immediate and to achieve excellence as an investment in the future. This commitment to achievement was a part of the fabric of the Espy family. Espy-Wilson’s family had high expectations for all the children and Espy-Wilson was expected to toe the line.
Calvin, seven years older, was Espy-Wilson’s role model and advisor. Starting when she was five years old, Calvin would try to teach her the math he was learning in school. When Calvin graduated from Georgia Tech in Electrical Engineering, Espy-Wilson decided to major in Electrical Engineering, as well. Espy-Wilson’s approach was that she would start in Electrical Engineering, and if she did not like it, she would figure out what other engineering field suited her better. She never got to a point where she did not like Electrical Engineering. Calvin graduated from Stanford University with his MS degree in Electrical Engineering and brought an application from Stanford home to Espy-Wilson and made sure that she filled it out when it was time for her to apply to schools.
Dr. Espy-Wilson decided to attend Stanford University and majored in Electrical Engineering. She obtained her BS degree from Stanford University in 1979. She decided to continue her studies at MIT for graduate school. She obtained her MS degree in Electrical Engineering in 1981. Her master’s thesis was entitled, “Effects of Noise in Signal Reconstruction from its Fourier Transform Phase”. Espy-Wilson received her “Electrical Engineer (EE)” degree from MIT in 1984. She received her Ph.D. in 1987 advised by Kenneth Stevens. Her Doctoral Dissertation was entitled, “An Acoustic-Phonetic Approach to Speech Recognition: Application to the Semivowels”.
After receiving her Ph.D. Espy-Wilson continued her affiliation with MIT, first as a post-doctoral student and then as a Research Scientist and Visiting Scientist. She was on faculty at Boston University from 1990 to 2001 and is Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Maryland, College Park. She directs the Speech Communication Lab at UMD.
Dr. Espy-Wilson's research interests include: "the integration of engineering, linguistics and speech acoustics to study speech communication. She is developing an approach to speech recognition based on phonetic features, articulatory parameters and landmarks to better address variability in the speech signal. She also conducts research in the areas of speech production, speech enhancement, speaker recognition, single-channel speaker separation and language and genre detection in audio content analysis and forensics. A major focus of her research is to gain a better understanding of the relationship between articulation, acoustics and perception and to use this knowledge to develop effective speech technologies".
Dr. Espy-Wilson is the founder of OmniSpeech, a start-up that offers technology to improve sound quality over cell phones and in hearing aids, among other devices.
Dr. Espy-Wilson is married to Dr. John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. who is the 11th President of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. and former Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s). She has two daughters, Ayana and Ashia. Ayana and Ashia are alumnae of Stanford University and Harvard University, respectively. She has a son, John Sylvanus Wilson, III, (Jay), who is presently attending Princeton University.