Feature - Nancy Wilkins-Diehr: "Follow what you enjoy"
ISGTW interviewed Nancy Wilkins-Diehr, head of the TeraGrid Science Gateways project. She shared her thoughts on her work, how she got where she is, and how young people can keep their career options open.
iSGTW: Please tell us what you do in TeraGrid.
iSGTW: What has been your career path leading up to your present position?
I pursued a master's degree in aerospace engineering then went on to help design missiles at General Dynamics and gas-cooled reactors at General Atomics.
While at General Atomics, which operated the San Diego Supercomputer Center, I decided that it might be more interesting to help people from all fields use supercomputers. I've been at the Center ever since. It's been a challenging, interesting, ever-changing career that I really enjoy.
iSGTW: What are the big issues today that the grid community in general, and the TeraGrid in particular, are having to address?
Today I was able to add a genome analysis gadget from the Open Life Sciences Gateways to my iGoogle page. The ability to meet the next generation of young scientists where they live is very powerful.
iSGTW: What words of wisdom and encouragement do you have to offer young women considering careers in the computing field?
It's partly by chance, but with an understanding of what I enjoy that led me to where I am today. I'm not sure when or how young people get diverted from technical career paths, but I will say that taking the math and science courses allows you to keep your options open for the future.
And don't be afraid to ask questions. Others may be pretending that they understand, but you really will and that's important.
Finally, don't let anyone tell you 'no'. Back in grad school I took fluid mechanics before some of the more basic engineering courses and I found myself asking a lot of questions. The professor told me he didn't think I was cut out for this. He was wrong.