Emily Stoll on using math/OR in the real world

Emily Stoll from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory gave  a talk on balancing life and work as part of the Women in Math program.  She offered several lessons that she has learned along the way.

Stoll has a degree in civil engineering, a degree in applied math, and an MBA.  She talked about all of the different things you can do with an applied math degree.  Most of her work involves homeland security applications.  As a mathematical analyst, she analyzed submarine data using the Chi-squared test, Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, Fault tree analysis, and other statistical tests.    She used design of experiments as well as modeling and simulation to improve port security.  Her research on receiver operating (ROC) curves for IED detection was featured in the TSA’s blog.

One of the more interesting projects Stoll was involved with is the US NavyMarine Mammals” program. She helped to optimize the location of dolphins and sea lions to interdict dangerous materials (such as mines) and for swimmer defense.  Amazingly, the US Navy has been using the marine mammals program since the Vietnam War era.

All of Stoll’s work requires the use of statistics.  It’s nice to know that the tools I teach students in STAT 541 (an introductory statistics course for engineers) are widely used in industry, even by mathematicians and engineers who don’t consider themselves to be statisticians.

Stoll’s excellent life lessons include:

  • Take your time to think about a job offer before accepting
  • Know what you want before you go after it.
  • Build and use your network.
  • Very few decisions in life are Life Decisions.
  • Sometimes you have to take a risk.
  • You can do it all, just not at the same time.
  • Do what works for you.
  • Realize that it can be done.
  • Realize that you will need help.
  • Realize that almost every other woman in your position are struggling with the same decisions.
  • Figure out what is important to you and make that your priority.
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