Where are you from?
I am from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which is 75 miles northwest of Nashville, TN. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, I attended graduate school at Rice University in Houston, TX. Then, my career took me west to the San Francisco Bay Area before I headed back east to the Northern Virginia area.
Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.
That’s a difficult question. My interest in mathematical sciences was piqued at an early age. I always had a love for mathematics and never seriously considered another major. Well-meaning counselors and teachers encouraged me to pursue degrees in mathematics-related fields like accounting, education, and engineering. However, I ignored their advice and majored in mathematics.
Summer internships at AT&T Bell Laboratories led me to a PhD in Computational and Applied Mathematics. While interning, I discovered the thrill of writing software to solve complex problems. There is nothing like the journey from a rough design to working software. There’s a myriad of frustrations along the way (e.g., bugs, core dumps, incorrect results, etc.) that is outweighed by the satisfaction of successfully executing software.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?
First, my team was a finalist for the 2015 Franz Edelman Prize awarded by the Institute for Operations Research and Mathematical Sciences (INFORMS) for a supply chain management project that overcame many obstacles on the way from R&D to implementation.
Second, I chaired the 2005 Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference (https://tapiaconference.cmd-it.org), which provides opportunities for minorities and persons with disabilities to network and gain experience in presenting technical talks.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?
Besides earning my PhD, completing six marathons are my proudest accomplishments. A friend inspired me to train for a marathon, which meant transitioning from treadmill to road runs. There were many nights and weekends that I didn’t feel like running but sticking to the plan helped me achieve goals that I never dreamed possible.
As a bonus, I’ve debugged lots of code and developed creative solutions while on solo runs.
Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.
Don’t be afraid of failure because it is through failure that you grow. Make learning a lifelong experience so that you can continue to develop personally and professionally.