As the Women in STEM project concludes, we investigate the world of mathematics. The Women in STEM Mathematics section includes women in statistics, operations research, programming, and actuarial science. The women featured in this portion of Women in STEM have impressive accolades. The careers led by Bacher, Phipps, Liebman, Easley, Coke, and Spiers offer a glimpse of the many applications of mathematics. The work of these women showcases the variety present in mathematics and are examples of the potential for Women in Mathematics, and Women in STEM. To learn more about our six Women in Mathematics, read their individual summaries below, follow us at @WSKGScience on Instagram or on Twitter @NancyCoddington @JulD22 for more inspiring #WomenInSTEM. Rhonda Bacher
Dr. Rhonda Bacher is an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Florida. Earning her Ph.D. in 2018, Dr. Bacher has already contributed incredible published research to the biostatistics world. Dr. Bacher’s research interests include the creation and use of statistical methods alongside software to analyze genetics and genomics. Her work aims to apply statistics to biological processes and findings. In addition to her position at the University of Florida, Dr. Bacher has many upcoming talks concerning animal biology and biomath.
Dr. Polly Phipps is a Senior Survey Methodologist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prior to this role, she worked as a Senior Research Statistician at the same organization. Dr. Phipps is a social statistician, meaning she works with statistical systems to model and study human behavioral patterns. Much of her past work involves statistical data analysis. Dr. Phipps has several publications that cover a wide variety of topics. These include analyses of employment statistics, time use surveys, and sex compositions of varying fields. Phipps was recognized for her work with her election as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2013.
Dr. Judith Liebman earned a Ph.D. in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering in 1971. She used her education to lead a career as an educator, working at Johns Hopkins University and later at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When asked what work she was most proud of, Dr. Liebman stated, “Educating students about operations research and its potential to solve problems.” Her enthusiasm toward inspiring students in her field was clear. Dr. Liebman cites her mother’s initial support of her interest in science as the beginning of her path toward a career in STEM. She went on to describe how her husband’s encounter with operations research led to her taking an introductory course. She states, “I was working as a computer programmer for General Electric’s research lab which let me take the course and paid the tuition. I was hooked!” Dr. Liebman has since retired and now spends time pursuing cooking, gardening, and reading.
Annie Easley was a mathematician and computer scientist who worked for NASA for 34 years. Starting her career with the organization in 1955, Easley worked alongside researchers providing analysis and calculations. She was one of just four African American employees hired for computational work. This, however, did not deter her from her work. Easley stated, “My thing is, If I can’t work with you, I will work around you.” This perseverance allowed her to continue to succeed at NASA when her department transitioned to a more technological approach to math. Easley went from doing work by hand to using computer programming to assist in the research effort. She would go on to work as an Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor to address discrimination in the workplace.
Daisy Coke is the founder of the Caribbean Actuarial Association. She is known for being the first Jamaican actuary to practice in her native country, and for being the first Jamaican Government Actuary. Coke worked in the private sector and for the Jamaican government as a member of the Judicial Service and Public Service Commissions. Her unique educational background offered Coke a well-rounded and experienced approach to actuarial science in her home country. While working towards her career, Coke studied at the University of the West Indies, the University of Toronto, and Oxford University. Each of these experiences offered Daisy Coke applications of actuarial science, and she used what she saw at Oxford to bring her practice to the Jamaican government.
Dorothy Spiers was an actuary who worked in the private sector. She is known best for being the first woman to qualify as an actuary in the United Kingdom. This achievement was especially groundbreaking as it occurred just one year after the Institute of Actuaries made the decision to allow women to be admitted. Spiers worked for years as a part-time actuary while raising her two sons. She was also a member and the National Treasurer of the League of Jewish Women, a volunteer organization providing assistance to Jewish people in the United Kingdom.
Produced by Julia Diana, Science Intern
Nancy Coddington, Director of Science Content