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Black History Month
2019 Honoree

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Jacqueline Akinpelu

Jacqueline Akinpelu

Assistant Branch Supervisor

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

I grew up in 1960’s in Winston Salem, NC. in a low-income, single parent household. At the time, the schools in Winston-Salem were segregated but, due primarily to the dedication of my teachers and my own motivation, I received a very strong public school education. For as long as I can remember, even before I started school, I had a love for mathematics. I think there was something about both the logic of math and the fact that in math there was a “right answer” that appealed to me (clearly before I knew about stochastic mathematics). For a long time, I wanted to be a math teacher, but in high school I started to think about working in jobs where I could “apply” mathematics (though I only had a vague idea of what that meant). At Duke University my mathematics world broadened greatly, but I loved every minute of it, and graduated in 1975 magna cum laude with a BA in mathematics. It was in graduate school in the Mathematical Sciences Department at the Johns Hopkins University that I got my first real exposure to “applied mathematics,” and I completed a doctoral thesis on a topic in inventory systems management.

In 1980 I joined AT&T Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, NJ. Eventually I had a 25- year career at Bell Laboratories and, after the breakup of the Bell System, AT&T Laboratories. Two projects during this time stand out for me as highlights of my career in the mathematical sciences. My first project at Bell Laboratories was to model the behavior of a new methodology for planning and managing telephone network call capacity under non-engineered traffic conditions, and to work with a team to develop strategies for maintaining the network’s stability under all network conditions. This was one of my first opportunities to apply my mathematics expertise to solve a real-world problem – and I learned a lot about how to tackle an ill-defined problem and achieve tangible results. I also learned a lot about working in a team and effectively communicating technical information. The second project was to model the performance of a proposed signaling protocol for voice switched networks. This was another opportunity to use my expertise in mathematical sciences, this time to develop effective message flow control mechanisms, but it also gave me the opportunity to work in a team on the international level through participation in standards body deliberations. Building on my technical successes, I went on to become a manager, leading organizations responsible for providing technology for planning, engineering, provisioning and maintenance of the AT&T long distance network.

During my time at AT&T I learned the importance of mentoring. I have mentored hundreds of people over my career, first at AT&T and, more recently, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), where I continued my career after leaving AT&T. I am very proud of the impact I have had on the careers of so many people. I am particularly proud of the outreach that I built at JHUAPL to Morgan State University, which includes mentoring students to prepare them for professional careers and developing research partnerships with the university. I have also worked to improve the work environment for all employees, both at AT&T and JHUAPL. I sincerely believe that we have an obligation to create work environments where those coming behind us can be successful, and to return to our communities to share what we have learned.