March is Women’s History Month!
This year’s national theme is Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This theme is meant to honor generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields.
As part of our Women’s History Month celebrations, the Women's Center and CWIT are partnering to showcase six talented women in engineering and IT fields at UMBC. The future of women’s history is being created as we speak and there is importance in sharing our lived stories now. We invite you to join us throughout the month of March to learn more about these women, their experiences, and their dreams.
Natalie Morningstar, T-SITE Scholar
Junior Computer Engineer major
Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.
My interests in art, sciences and mathematics have always been with me, but the decision to choose a STEM major came somewhat recently. For a short time I studied Motion Picture Film at Brigham Young University, but due to unusual and tragic circumstances I became estranged from my parents and was forced to become fully independent. This interruption made it financially impossible for me to return to school for several years.
Remaining loyal to my passion for film, I worked for years so that I could position myself to work in a related field, such as post-production, and go back to school. In 2007 I started working full-time in post-production and from 2009-2012 I studied Digital Multimedia Production and Computer Science at Montgomery College.
While at Montgomery College I developed an interest for imaging science. Already having a background in art and film I found myself drawn to the science of images, which ultimately lead me to choose Computer Engineering as my major. Spring 2012 I applied for UMBC’s T-SITE scholarship (Transfer-Scholarship in Information Technology and Engineering), was selected and am now in my second semester here at UMBC.
Tell us about an internship, research experience or project that you are proud of.
I am currently employed by Video and Film Solutions, Inc. where I’ve learned how important both hardware and software knowledge are and their possible applications for the future. This summer I am excited to be interning with Ventura Solution, Inc. where I will learn to program in C, VHDL for FPGAs and study computer architecture. I’m looking into a summer research internship with Technicolor in 2014 or 2015.
Who are your role models in the engineering or IT field?
In 2009 I found a group of talented researchers online that were doing fun and thought provoking projects. The fellows from the Free Art and Technology Lab and their projects really inspired me to start learning how to program.
In 2010 I learned about Mary Somerville and Ada Lovelace from Dr. Betty Toole’s book Ada, The Enchantress of Numbers. Mary, born in 1780, was a self-taught painter, mathematician and wrote several academic interpretations and books. Dubbed the “Queen of Science,” she has been recognized for her unique ability to write like a painter and even coined the term “scientist.” Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, was also a mathematician and gifted poet. She worked with Charles Babbage and his Analytical Engine and her works discuss Bernoulli numbers. Later, her works were approved as the first computer program and in her honor the U.S. Department of Defense named a computer language after her (Toole). I love how both Mary and Ada were able to blend their artsy side with their analytic side and most of all they survived, as I like to say, as a single proton in a sea of electrons.
Explain your experience as a woman in a STEM major, including the challenges as well as the rewards.
I agree with Eric Schechter (Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University) when he said in his book Why do we Study Calculus? that “To a large extent, mathematics -- or any kind of abstract reasoning -- works by selectively suppressing information.” Time after time I am told that I think too literally, which really means I struggle to ‘suppress information.’ Some would say that this type of thinking is more common in women than men; regardless I’m working towards a balance.
My interests in art, sciences and mathematics I feel are somewhat genetic, but the lack of exposure to a career in STEM, both at home and in school, was a result of my gender. I am happy to see that resources are going into exposing more young students in school now and even companies like Mattel in 2010 made Computer Engineering Barbie!
I find understanding the material to be rewarding! If successful, I will become the first engineer in my family. The greatest reward I could have is leaving a legacy for posterity.
The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and TE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
Learn more about our community at http://www.cwit.umbc.edu/
For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit: http://my.umbc.edu/groups/womenscenter/news/24724