Math & Science grad returns to AHS to give girls a map for success

She was part of the first graduating class of the Science and Math Academy at Aberdeen High School. When it opened, some thought it was hard to get students to compete for admission. Now, it's clear the challenge is getting past the waiting list.

For Christine Harvey, 23, her enrollment there led her to an experience her senior year of high school that helped shape her future.

She accepted an internship at the Army Research Laboratory working with David Webb, a mathematical statistician in the weapon and materials research area. She needed the experience to help with her capstone project, a graduation requirement.

"The focus of the internship was using mathematical modeling tools to determine the optimal bin width to use to represent the dispersion of the M1028 Canister Round. While completing my internship, I learned programming skills, specifically in MATLAB as well as real world applications of statistics," she told a group of 50 girls from her alma mater April 23 during the third annual Young Women in Science and Engineering Workshop.

The 2014 YWISE workshop brought together women - diverse in science, technology, engineering and math fields as well as ethnicity - in a candid discussion with teenage girls to confront trends of women in STEM and help them navigate obstacles and opportunities in STEM careers.

"My time at ARL during my senior year of high school and the technical experience gained from the research really helped prepare me for my college experience and for my current career. Having basic programming skills and knowledge made many courses such as Numerical Analysis and Computational Modeling much easier. My experience at ARL encouraged me to go into the field of Computational Science, particularly in Modeling and Simulation. Many high school students do not have the exposure to experiences and careers like this, but I knew as soon as I started working on my Capstone project that this is the area I wanted to eventually work in."

And so she did just that.

After Harvey graduated from high school in 2008, she enrolled in Richard Stockton College in New Jersey. She earned a bachelor of science degree in computational science with a minor in mathematics in 2011, and went on to earn a master's of science in computational science last year.

Today, she works in modeling and simulation engineering at The MITRE Corporation in McLean, Va.

Harvey was one of nearly a dozen women, with careers in STEM, who spoke at the workshop.

She joined the ranks of Jeannie Y. Chun, pediatric surgeon and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery University of Maryland School of Medicine, who talked about trials and triumphs of performing delicate surgery on small children, and Sommer Gentry, associate professor of Mathematics at the U.S. Naval Academy and Research Faculty Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Gentry discussed her career as a professor at the Naval Academy and her passion as a champion swing dancer and avid slalom water skier.

Also speaking was Clara Galbis-Reig, principal research scientist at Battelle Eastern Science and Technology Center, who talked about how she uses her education in chemistry and environmental engineering for chemical demilitarization efforts of military stockpile sites.

Gloria Phillips-Wren, professor and chair of Information Systems and Operations Management at Loyola University Maryland, spoke on intelligent decision technologies and her career path which has spanned from teaching math to the gifted and talented to becoming a senior level mathematician and technical manager at a government laboratory to full professor and academic director of Executive MBA Programs at the University Maryland.

Leslie Lamberson, assistant professor at Drexel University, talked about how she juggled an accomplished ballet performance career with her engineering profession where she investigates the dynamic behavior of multifunctional materials.

"It doesn't surprise me that Christine came back to talk to them," said David Webb, her mentor at ARL, as he reflected on her as "intellectually curious," and a very dependable self-starter. "She was a real joy to work with."

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