Where Are They Now?

Where Are They Now? Thomas Dietz
By: Nicole Justiniano, Shodor Intern
August 2012

Thomas Dietz began working at Shodor while he was a sophomore at Notre Dame University, in 1997. Since then Thomas has been very busy. He graduated from Notre Dame (with a degree in Architecture and Art History), attended MIT for Architectural Studies in History, Theory and Criticism, writing on the relationship of Church and State architecture at the founding of modern Italy. Thomas also completed several certification programs and continuing education courses, notably completing the four-year Basic Program of Liberal Studies at the University of Chicago. Currently Thomas is working for Duncan G. Stroik, assisting Duncan on "the compiling of his forthcoming collection of essays, releasing a line of liturgical furnishing, and managing the execution of several ongoing church projects."

While at Shodor, Thomas was chiefly a graphic designer for promotional merchandise and websites, as well as helping in the production of several research grant proposals. He was involved in a revamp of the Shodor website (which is now almost entirely replaced). Thomas also helped design the look and feel of Project SUCCEED and Project Interactivate. He also worked heavily on the University of North Carolina Applied Sciences project, as well as SCSI.

According to Thomas, the work at Shodor has helped him in his current career. He says, "Dr. Panoff engaged me to the idea of maintaining an active engagement in academic affairs without holding some sort of collegiate position. I have always tried to keep one foot in the academy throughout my architecture career with occasional lectures, writings, etc. due to this early experience, and have continued to seek employment in offices that maintain an academic bent." Thomas says that his time at Shodor was "an absolutely amazing experience."

Where Are They Now? Gavin Borg
By: Jacqueline McAuley, Shodor Intern
May 2012

Gavin Borg began as an apprentice at Shodor in 2006 and in 2008 began working as an intern. Gavin has been with Shodor for quite some time and has had a very exceptional experience with the program. He says that it "promotes a wonderful atmosphere for learning--the staff, interns, and even apprentices are always happy to help you in any way they can."

Gavin is currently a junior at Wake Forest University majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Math. While he does not yet have a full time job, he has accepted a position as a software development intern with Epic Systems for this summer. By 7th grade, Gavin had developed an interest in computer science but wasn't aware of exactly how to pursue this. It was Shodor that truly allowed him to really learn about the field; it was where he first learned how to program. It had started on a basic, loose level but that later turned into more object-oriented programming. He says that it basically "jump-started [him] onto [his] career path" because of how important programming is to the things that he does with his courses, campus websites, and his internship.

With his success, Gavin leaves two big pieces of advice for future as well as current interns and apprentices: "Do your work to the best of your ability - not only will those around you notice and appreciate it, but if someone after you has to modify or use what you've created, they will very much appreciate a job well done" and "don't be afraid to ask for help if you're stuck - use the resources you have to figure out how to solve a particular problem, but if you are completely stuck, don't hesitate to ask around for someone who can point you in the right direction."

Where Are They Now? Victoria Nneji
By: Kristen Ross, Shodor Intern
March 2012

Victoria Nneji was first acquainted with Shodor when she was in middle school, attending various workshops such as Biomedical Science and Forensic Science. From there the relationship grew when she was invited to apply for Shodor's apprenticeship program. Now Victoria is a sophomore in Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science studying Applied Mathematics and Economics.

At Shodor Victoria developed her computational science skills and a passion for math and science. This passion motivated her to apply for and attend the North Carolina School of Science and Math. In the summers following her apprenticeship, Victoria continued to seek experiences similar to those she had at Shodor. She found these experiences through various programs such as Summer Ventures in Science and Math, American Chemical Society's NC Project SEED research program, several programs with Google and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

One of Victoria's most memorable experiences at Shodor was meeting Monte Evans and hearing his story. He was Shodor's first intern, who then attended North Carolina School of Science and Math and eventually obtain a graduate degree. "He was walking and talking proof that I could overcome whatever circumstances and pursue my dream," she says. Hearing of his experiences helped Victoria realize that she could be successful in computational science.

Victoria leaves some advice to current students considering their futures, "I advise them to write down their life goals, not based on how they will gain or prosper, but how they will positively impact other people's lives." Also, students need to "keep the present in mind. There are things you have to do today in order to be prepared for the opportunities that may be presented to you at any given moment."

Where Are They Now? Andrew Fitz Gibbon
By: John Riselvato, Shodor Intern
October 2011

Andrew Fitz Gibbon, known as "Fitz", was a full-time staff member starting in November of 2009. Then in December of 2010, he became a remote part-time staff member until June of 2011.

Fitz accomplished a vast amount during his time at Shodor. He defined the process for committing to and releasing projects, started the development of the JavaScript interactivate project, and worked a significant amount of time on the Blue Waters program. In addition, he spent time parallel programming within National Computational Science Institute. Fitz described his work at Shodor saying, "All of these have been fun and exciting; I'm proud to have worked on each one."

Shortly after his departure from Shodor, Fitz became a Software Development Engineer at Amazon.com in Seattle, Washington. At Amazon, he currently works with a team called "Email Automation". His team is the heart behind automatic emails based on customer behavior. "So if you ever see an email from Amazon saying things like 'looking for an X? How about a Y, too?' then you probably got it from my team", says Fitz. His team uses the technologies of website design, database manipulation, numerical analysis and modeling, and system administration. All of which are common tasks assigned at Shodor.

Fitz explains that Shodor gives you unique opportunities to do more than just improve technical skills. "To really do well in the world, you need more than just technical knowledge (though having it is still important!). You need to be able to work well with others and efficiently and effectively communicate your ideas. Shodor prepares you for that eventuality by putting you up in front of classrooms and encouraging you to interact with your peers." He then jokes about "Who did you help today?" a weekly question asked on reflections. Highlighting the fact that Shodor does prep you for the work force and every day life.

Fitz gives this advice for current day interns at Shodor, "For the programmers among you: Don't let yourself turn into a pure "code monkey," sitting in front of a screen hammering out line after line of code." He then suggests, "Instead, take some time to honestly think about what you're working on and don't be afraid to ask if the line of code you're about to write will actually be adding value to the project. More importantly: have fun, work hard, and do interesting things!" Great words to live by in any setting.

Where Are They Now? Alyssa Canty
By: Alexandra Solender, Shodor Intern
August 2011

Ever since Shodor was founded, students have been mentored into successful STEM members of society, both in and out of the office. It is easy to see that students that pass through Shodor's workshops, apprenticeship program, and intern program gain invaluable computational experience that they could not have found elsewhere. Alyssa Canty was one of those students, and now she is on her way to achieving her goal of starting a non-profit organization to address social justice issues.

Alyssa Canty, a recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, was a Shodor intern from January 2010-August 2010. Her main projects included testing Interactivate activities and creating instruction pages, lessons, and discussions. In addition to this she helped out with many different off-site workshops in Durham. Alyssa came to Shodor as an APPLES intern. APPLES, or Assisting People in Planning Learning Experiences in Service, is a service-learning program at UNC. After completion of her required service-learning hours for APPLES, Alyssa continued to work at Shodor throughout the summer.

Alyssa graduated in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Women Studies and Public Policy with social and education policy concentrations. She will be working as a Residential Coordinator at Salem College all while taking more classes to earn her certificate in Non-for Profit Management. Alyssa plans to work for a non-profit and ultimately start her own as a way to address issues of today while working with children, women, and minorities. She cites her experience at Shodor as a big influence on choosing this path, "Shodor really increased my interest in working in education and also using non-profits as a tool to drive improvements in society. I also gained the belief that non-profits are necessary for our society to survive unless there are policy changes that create equality, especially in regards to education."

Although it has been quite a while since she has worked at Shodor as an intern, Alyssa knows how important her internship was. Alyssa's time at Shodor has clearly influenced her decisions for her future. It should not be too long before we see her name on her own non-profit organization!

Where Are They Now? Kirstin Riesbeck
By: Maya Gouw, Shodor Intern
May 2011

Nine years ago, Kirstin Riesbeck was held in high regard as a member of the Shodor family. Looking back, Kirstin says she cherished her time at Shodor as a college intern. "It provided me wonderful opportunities and a strong foundation for what I do now," Kirstin proudly states.

Now, Kirstin works for the U.S. Coast Guard, a part of the Department of Homeland Security. She was selected for the Senior Service program for civilians, and is currently attending the Naval War College. She plans to graduate June of 2011. In her spare time Kirstin enjoys running and traveling.

Since her farewell from Shodor, Kirstin has continued her journey of computational science... Through the Coast Guard Kirstin has been working with scientists developing models that rely greatly on some of the skills she had previously learned at Shodor. "While I have not personally developed these models, it has been extremely valuable to understand computational science in order to be able to work with the scientists in order to develop policy related to these issues," she notes.

Where Are They Now? Michael Woody
By: DeMarcus Hill, Shodor Intern
March 2011

Established in 1994, Shodor has encouraged improvement in math and science through education. Shodor has helped to spread the importance of computational science through hands-on learning, as well as workshops by giving high school and college level students real world experience for future careers. For some former interns, like Michael Woody, Shodor has helped prepare them for other opportunities.

Along with Hanley Rice, his wife and former Shodor intern, Michael Woody currently lives in Bucheon, South Korea where he teaches Space and Earth Science, Physical Science, and Physics to 8th, 9th, and 12th graders respectively at an International School in Bucheon. Bucheon is located just outside of the capital city Seoul. Michael credits Shodor with reinforcing his passion of science and teaching. "Shodor helped me to see the importance and use of computational modeling in both practicing science and teaching it. I use more computer resources in my class than I might have if I had not had my experience at Shodor."

When asked about his favorite memories at Shodor, Michael said, "I really enjoyed the independence and being able to feel like when I had completed part of a project that I could truly be proud of my work because I knew it was my own." Michael would like to thank his former mentors Bob Panoff and Joel Feiner for giving him a great opportunity and also having confidence in him.

Michael leaves this advice for Shodor current students and interns, "Keep working hard, and to keep your mind open to any opportunities that present themselves."

Where Are They Now? Cory Efland
By: Hillary Stoker, Shodor Staff
August 2010

Shodor recently caught up with Cory Efland, a former Shodor intern from 2004, while conducting a professional development workshop for Carteret County (North Carolina) teachers. After a few pleasantries, contact information was exchanged... This story is what has come out of that contact; it is great to see a Shodor alumni doing so well!

Cory Efland, now 23, originally came to Shodor as a high school senior. While at Shodor, Cory worked in system administration, helping staff with system maintenance or troubleshooting tasks. "I enjoyed my work as a sys admin at Shodor and have had several other jobs involving sys admin work since then," states Cory.

Since leaving Shodor, Cory graduated from Appalachian State University with Bachelor's of Science degrees in Technology Education and Industry Education with a concentration in Graphic Arts. After graduation Cory pursued a career in education and is currently teaching Project Lead The Way classes in Carteret County NC. According to Cory, "Shodor was one of my first experiences where I was able to see the direct impact that Math and Science enrichment activities have on students."

Although this is his first year teaching in Carteret County, Cory thoroughly enjoys his work and is looking forward to continuing Project Lead The Way in the following years. "One of the things I most enjoy about teaching is the connections I can make with students. I have had students who come and visit me everyday, even when they do not have me for a class. This says a lot to me, and it is a big help when other things may not seem to be going well," says Cory.

In addition to working with Project Lead The Way, Cory enjoys personal hobbies such as photography and graphics design.

Where Are They Now? Alton Patrick
By: Paris Fears, Shodor Intern
March 2010

With over sixteen years of history in the mentoring business, Shodor has plenty of experience molding its interns, apprentices, and staff; guiding them into careers as scientists, instructors or professors, and other technology related professions. For some Shodor is the last stop in their science, math, education, and technology (STEM) career and for others, like Alton Patrick, it is merely a stepping-stone.

Former high school and post grad intern of Shodor, Alton Patrick, is now a Vision technologist for Sarnoff Corporation in Princeton, New Jersey. Today he works with a wide range of scientific areas from robotics and artificial intelligence to graphics and computer vision. While at Shodor he was responsible for developing some of the numerous software programs that Shodor uses today, such as applets in InterActivate.

When asked about his experience at Shodor Alton said, "Shodor gave me experience working on fairly large software systems that a lot of people relied on. When you're doing that sort of real-world work, as opposed to small programming projects, you run into different issues and have to have different standards for quality. Having that background has definitely been an advantage now that I'm working on even larger software systems with even bigger stakes." For about five years Alton has been working with many functions that extend across government and commercial security and defense spaces; for example developing a software system called, TerraSight, which is a large system for aerial video processing. Although much of this is far beyond Shodor's reaches, Alton had to start somewhere.

Alton said he would have never in a million years thought he would be moving from Shodor into something as major as Sarnoff Corporation. He went on to give current Shodor apprentices and interns advice saying, "Whatever you work on at Shodor, especially the boring projects and most insignificant or thankless task... You're going to learn something that will make you better at what you do or give you skills to help someone else in the future." Aside from surrounding students with a warm and welcoming work environment, Shodor is helping people to build their future by giving interns and apprentices things that will better them and prepare them for real world working experience. Alton Patrick is just one of the many success stories Shodor can boast about.