Professional Development Event for Aspiring Mathematicians

March 31, 2017

AWM co-organized a professional development event, in which we arranged academic and industry panels, networking lunch and a resume/cv clinic.

The event began with an Academic Panel. The panelists were Dr. David Carchedi (Assistant Professor), Diego Torrejon (Graduate Student), Dr. Evelyn Sander (Professor), Dr. Kathleen Alligood (Professor), Dr. Maria Emelianenko (Associate Professor), and Dr. Tyrus Berry (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow). Academic panel revolved around questions regarding choice of graduate school and advisors, life after getting a PhD., life as a professor, job prospects for students with a masters degree in mathematics, post doc positions, research and teaching statements. Some of the responses received from the panelists included:

Go to conferences, REUs, and internships. Think ahead. Put yourself out there. Meet as many people as you can. Take notes on who you talk to, what they do, what you discussed, so in the future you can connect with them again. Dead ends are part of the process. It's not always going to be fast or efficient, but you'll learn something from each false start. Follow your instincts. Embrace compromise - you might not be able to study exactly what you thought you would, but it could work out well in the end anyway.

The Industrial Panel comprised of people who had studied mathematics and who now work in industry. The panelists were Zichao (Wendy) Di (Assistant Computational Scientist, Argonne National Lab), Shauna Revay (Research Mathematician, Naval Research Lab), Rachel Locke (Research Mathematician, Department of Defense), Patrick O'Neil (Lead Data Scientist, Spaceflight Industries), Tom Stephens (Computational Biophysicist, National Institutes of Health), and Val Vaughn (Senior Project Leader, the Aerospace Corporation). Five of the six panelists were George Mason Alumni, or current George Mason Ph.D. students. The panelists began by explaining what degree(s) they have, and how those degree(s) relates to their current job. The questions asked were: How did you get the job you have now? How was the transition from academia to industry? What skills do you need to work in industry? Is there more pressure in industry to deliver results in a specific amount of time? If so, how do you deal with this pressure? Again, the panel was initially led by a moderator, but halfway through the session the floor was opened to questions from the attendees. Some of the responses were:

Apply for internships, because your good performance in internships often leads to permanent positions and job offers later on. Learn how to program. Learn how to communicate technical ideas to a non-technical audience. Learn to embrace change and learn to adapt quickly.

A networking lunch followed where attendees were encouraged to meet panelists and improve their networking skills. The last event of the day was a resume clinic. The first half hour was a discussion with Dr. Flavia Colonna (Professor, Graduate Coordinator). She spoke about how to write a resume, the differences between a CV and a resume, how to write a research statement, a teaching statement, and a diversity and inclusion statement, and the things that you shouldn't put on your resume. Dr. Colonna shared advice such as: focus on quality not quantity, create multiple versions of your resume based on where you're applying, don't just list abilities but how you used them, and emphasize your publications, research, funding, and awards.

This event was attended by 32 students, 17 faculty and panelists. We got a very positive response from the attendees. We asked them to fill out a survey at the end, and some of the comments were:

"This should be an event offered every year or every semester", "Greatly appreciated; could see it growing in the future", "Everything went very smoothly and I learned more than I anticipated" and "This event was perfectly executed".

Recommended changes for a future version of the event included "a larger space", "advice on how to approach conferences and networking with other mathematicians" and "include some useful information for those who are completing their Masters and not pursuing a Ph.D."

Women in Math Society HS Club visit to GMU

March 30, 2017

AWM co-organized a professional development event, in which we arranged academic and industry panels, networking lunch and a resume/cv clinic.

AWM organized an outreach event for Centerville High School girls in which Women in Math Society (WIMS) club members visited George Mason University (GMU). Our goal was to inspire these women to pursue active careers in STEM fields. Activities of the day included a workshop on using 3D printing in Mathematics, visit to the Mason Observatory, Magnetic Resonance Lab, and Neural Engineering Lab.

Opening remarks were given by AWM Faculty advisor, Dr. Maria Emelianenko (Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics) where she welcomed WIMS to GMU, and spoke briefly about the kinds of careers you can have if you study mathematics, and the concentrations GMU offers in our math program.

Dr. Evelyn Sander (Professor, Department of Mathematics) and Ratna Khatri (Graduate Student, Department of Mathematics) began the first session, which was a 3D printing workshop. Dr. Sander is the director of the Math MakerLab, a 3D printing lab at GMU, and Ratna Khatri is her graduate lab assistant. WIMS students were given a piece of basic code for an iterated function system (IFS) in OpenSCAD, a free software used to create solid CAD (computer aided design and drafting) models. They were taught how to modify the file to create a 3D printed iterated function system, a method used to create fractals. Dr. Sander explained what each part of the code did, how the software worked, and what IFS and fractals are. The WIMS students were then asked to work in groups of three to design their own iterated function systems, which were printed that afternoon by Ratna Khatri at the GMU Math MakerLab and given to the students at the end of the day.

The WIMS students were then taken to Research Hall for a pizza lunch sponsored by the AWM Student Chapter

through GMU Student Organizations fund. The students got to speak with Tracey Mason, the Assistant Dean of Strategic Communications for the College of Science. She spoke about how GMU supports women in science and math. Current PhD students from the Department of Mathematics spoke about about why they chose GMU, and Dr. David Carchedi (Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics) and Marilyn Vasquez (Graduate Student, Department of Mathematics) spoke about what research is like and why people would want to do it.

Dr. Daniel Anderson (Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator, Department of Mathematics) discussed the math curriculum at GMU, and answered the WIMS students questions about math curricula and classes, class size, and recitations.

After lunch and discussions, Joe Renaud (Graduate Student, Department of Physics and Astronomy) took the WIMS students on a tour of the observatory at GMU. The WIMS students were shown how the telescope works and pictures of space taken by GMU, as well as pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope and NASA. The students weren't able to view anything though, as it was too cloudy.

Dr. Karen Sauer (Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy), Director of the Magnetic Resonance Lab at GMU gave the WIMS students a tour of the lab, and discussed some of the projects they are currently working on. She showed them three projects, with the help of Robert Cooper (Graduate Student, Department of Physics and Astronomy) and Andrew Hornstra (Undergraduate Student, Department of Physics and Astronomy). Some of the projects discussed were "Sudden and Adiabatic Excitation of a Quantum System", and "Quantum magnetometer arrays for unshielded detection of explosives".

The last tour of the day was a visit to the Neural Engineering Lab, directed by Dr. Nathalia Peixoto (Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering). The tour was led by Tjerignimin Adisa Silue (graduate student, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Dev Dhakshi (graduate student, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering). The WIMS students learned about some of the projects the lab is currently working on, including a project to design assistive devices for students with disabilities.

Overall the event was a big success, and was thoroughly enoyed by the WIMS students. We sked them to fill out a survey form, and they said, "The most interesting thing I learned today was about the giant telescope at GMU and all the different things it can picture", "[I liked] learning the basics of how to print a 3D model using a 3D printer", "[I liked learning] how to load something to be 3D printed - it was definitely harder than it looks to get it how you wanted!", "the staff and students we talked to were very friendly", and "I really loved seeing the telescope and hearing from professors and students! Everyone was so friendly". "I told my family and friends how I am more interested in these fields now. THANK YOU!!!"

It is our intention to hold this event every year in collaboration with different high schools in the area.