A Day for Women, Math, Mentoring


Girls Learn About Cryogenics, Architecture, Financial Services at CSM Workshop

Women + Math, now in its fourth year, has become a successful formula to bring together professional women in careers that require math with female students in high school and sometimes middle school.

“We want to show these young women that doors can be opened for them,” said Sandy Poinsett, a CSM professor of math who along with Stephanie McCaslin and Mary Bilmanis put together this year’s event. “By giving these young women the opportunity to interact with successful women as well as connect with their peers of similar talents, they will see the vast area of career potentials out there for them,” Poinsett added.

“When I was in high school I did not have a clue what I wanted to do when I graduated,” said Felicia Jones-Selden, a presenter at this year’s Women + Math event hosted by CSM. Now the deputy director of the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA, Jones-Selden said it was her study of math all through high school that positioned her to hit the ground running when she decided that she wanted to be an engineer.

Jones-Selden’s message is the same message that each presenter tried to bring home to the young women attending the event: take math in high school—take lots of math in high school.

“In trig or algebra class you say to yourself, ‘When am I ever going to use this?,’ asked CSM Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Farinelli during his remarks. “Well, today you’re going to find out.”

The students were divided into groups according to their interests and sent off to explore career options. Evangelina Cigno, a senior at Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, and Raquel Flores, a junior at Patuxent High School in Lusby, attended Jones-Selden’s astrophysics demonstration. Spraying liquid nitrogen on a balloon filled with air, Jones-Selden demonstrated the effects of extreme cold on the atmosphere. The girls ooh’ed and ah’ed as the balloon deflated and ice crystals formed inside. She had them.

“Liquid nitrogen can be used to simulate Mars’ chilling atmosphere,” said Jones-Selden. “As missions at NASA involve robotics, we need to know how a robot will work in extreme conditions,” she added.

This may be the career path for Flores, who said that she is most interested in the research aspect of a science career.

“Not knowing what the outcome could be, or where the outcome could be anything, is what is exciting to me,” Flores said. “I am excited by the challenges of the unknown,” she added.

In addition to astrophysics, the day included sessions on chemistry and ballistics, software engineering, mechanical engineering, financial services, health sciences and architecture.

This year’s keynote speaker was Brianna Bowling, president of Zekiah Technologies, a woman-owned information technology and software engineering firm in La Plata. /span>

Bowling, 38, said that she grew up in a home designed with no running water or indoor plumbing. “My dad was a forest ranger and Mom was a farmer. We heated our home and cooked with wood,” she told her amazed audience. “I grew up with no technology.”

Today she is the president of a technology company. She wants to pass on what she’s learned to the young girls who are still in high school and who are thinking about their futures, she said. “Women can work any where in the world. Job satisfaction for women with math-related careers is high because these jobs are in high demand,” Bowling said. Women in these fields can have a great career and a great family life, she added, based on her personal experience with three children and involvement with various sports, 4-H and other activities.

The workshop concluded with a question-and-answer period for the young participants to interact with their potential mentors. Without exception all presenters challenged the girls to take as many math classes in high school as possible, and to seek out mentors and peers who can help them realize their dreams.

“The first thing I’m going to do is to tell my friends in Math Club that they should have come!” Flores said.

The day’s presenters included Dr. Chris Michienzi from Naval Surface Warfare Center, who conducted a workshop on chemistry and ballistics; Dr. Ellen Wilson, an assistant professor of biology at CSM, who conducted a workshop on being a pharmacist; Wendy Todd, from Pax River Naval Air Station, who spoke on anthropometry; Felicia L. Jones-Selden, from NASA, who conducted a workshop on astrophysics and cryogenics; Jennie Eustace of Zekiah Technologies, who spoke on software engineering; Mary Sherlock and Lisa Griffith, from Naval Surface Warfare Center, who spoke on mechanical engineering; Cristina Campbell, from Maryland Occupational Safety and Health, who spoke on careers in health science; Christine Parker, of Parker Financial, LLC, who spoke on careers in the financial services industry; Daphne Powell, CSM assistant professor of technical and industrial studies, who spoke on careers in computer science; Meredith Mayes of Zekiah Technologies who spoke on geographical information systems mapping; and Diane Kaufman-Fredette of the Pratt Institute who conducted a workshop on architecture.

For information on science, technology, engineering and math programs at CSM visit www.csmd.edu/istem/. For information on nursing and allied health technology programs at CSM visit www.csmd.edu/healthcare/.