Spotlight: Caroline McElhenny

IMG_6609Caroline McElhenny, a student at CNU graduated last winter with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics and is currently in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. McElhenny is currently taking on three completely different roles at CNU, making her a prime candidate for a new segment on the PCSE Blog, The Spotlight. Each month, we will highlight some of the extraordinary accomplishments of students, alumni and faculty within the PCSE department. I had the opportunity to interview Caroline this past week and had a blast!

What exactly are your roles at CNU?

“I am a graduate student, which means that I am still taking physics classes, although they will be focused on education during the summer. I’m also a physics tutor on campus at the Center for Academic Success and a lab assistant teaching two sections of the Physics 105L class.”

What is the most interesting part of your situation?

“With my job as a tutor, it’s always fun to see the students come into tutoring that are in my 105 labs. They’re always surprised to see me in a completely different setting. In one, they view me as their teacher and in the other I’m a peer tutoring them with their homework. It’s an entirely new dynamic and they always tell me how surprising it is that I want to go into teaching rather than taking the more practical route after I finish up my time here at CNU. It’s also neat to see things from the professor’s side. I get to grade papers, make sure that my scholar account is up-to-date, and I get to actually teach material. Since the 105L class doesn’t strictly follow a lecture based class, some of the time I get to teach the students completely new material they haven’t been exposed to yet. I think that is one of the best things I do here at CNU. It’s very fun and rewarding.”

Why is it that you chose teaching over going into research or industry?

“Coming into my freshman year at CNU, I knew that I wanted to get a Masters in Physics because of my love for the subject. I was accepted into the 5 Year Masters in Applied Physics program and it was then that I decided to go to a conference with my advisor and some of my friends in the physics program. The conference was called CUWIP, which stands for Conference for Undergraduate Women In Physics and that’s where my realized my true calling.

At the conference, there was a panel of people that spoke about the types of jobs they went into after receiving their Bachelors in Physics. There was someone on the panel that did patents for a company, another that did research, a high school teacher and someone who did science demos for kids. It was really interesting because everyone in the audience kept asking questions to the other three people on the panel and were super impressed with what they did, but all I wanted to do was talk to the high school teacher. She kept talking about how she gets to inspire students on a daily basis and give them back that curiosity that gets lost throughout the many years of schooling. She spoke about an idealistic, wonderful world where everyone was excited about science and I realized that this is what I wanted to do.”

What were your biggest influences?

Tutoring at CNU was a huge influence, but I didn’t know that at the time. I’ve always wanted to inspire people and I got a sneak peak of what that was like while tutoring. The best part of it for me is seeing the students really understand the material after struggling through it. I tell them that I was once in their shoes, and I think that helps them feel like they aren’t alone in their difficulties and it IS possible to understand and master the subject if you aren’t perfect at it from the start. Like I mentioned earlier, I never truly considered teaching until that conference. I’ve been guided into the direction of research for as long as I can remember, to the point where I didn’t really think teaching was an option. I slowly came to the realization that I was merely doing what was expected of me, and that it was never truly what I was passionate about. So that’s when I began toying with the idea of teaching and spoke to my advisor. Coincidentally, she taught high school before she went back to school to get her Masters and now she’s a professor at CNU who also does research. I think there’s comfort in that, in case I do want to switch my career to do research. She’s definitely influenced me to take the plunge into the MAT program.”

Why high school?

“Everyone asks me the same question! I know that high school students can be a handful, but they are more mentally developed to understand the math and reasoning behind physics. They’re old enough to grasp all of the concepts on a deeper level, which I feel like is much more rewarding than just memorizing the outcomes. Taking on a problem and explaining it through the language of math, to me, is much more interesting than memorization. Although, math is something that a disappointing number of students dislike and I will strive to change their views on it. I would like to work with the inquisitive minds of teenagers because that is where I feel like I would make the most impact, in teaching both math application and physical laws. I feel like someday teaching at a liberal arts college such as CNU would also be really fun, but only time will tell!”

 

The Spotlight: Caroline McElhenny, March 2016

What You Missed At Pizza My Mind

FireEyeHappy Tuesday Captains! Last Thursday’s Pizza MY Mind seminar was all about the rapidly growing and changing world of cyber security. The wonderful people of FireEye were at CNU to tell us that we don’t need to have tons of super highly technical skills to get a start in cyber security. All we need is to have an interest and a desire to learn. Which I know that we all do!

Frank Tobia, software engineer at FireEye, dove into the presentation by talking about all the perks of interning at the company. He stressed the importance of the one to one mentorships that all interns have with innovators in the field of advanced threat detection. In addition, interns get to work on meaningful projects that have impact. He also mentioned that the internship experience on its own is a perk because of all the fun that all the interns have working at FireEye.

So what exactly is FireEye and what do they do? “FireEye has invented a purpose-built, virtual machine-based security platform that provides real-time threat protection to enterprises and governments worldwide against the next generation of cyber attacks.” In simpler terms, the people that try to steal military plans and hack into our computers are the bad guys and the people at FireEye are the good guys that stop them.

CNU graduate, Alex Lawrence was alongside Tobia to talk about the company. A current CNU student, Micah Coffman, a junior majoring in Computer Science, shared his internship experience at FireEye: “The work that we do makes a difference and it makes me enthusiastic to come into work every day. The team is so welcoming and their internship program teaches us company’s values. We get to go to some super fun events and it’s a place that I don’t want to leave when the day is over. The company aims to keep their employees motivated and engaged and gives us a plan to never stop growing within the company.”

To finish off the seminar, Tobia spoke about how the company treats its interns: “We want our interns to work on something hands-on. This isn’t the type of company that requires interns to fetch coffee. We treat our interns like entry level associates. Once they get trained, we get them working on something meaningful where they will be getting real experience and something that’s going to look incredible on their resume.”

That was last Thursday’s seminar! Make sure to come out to this week’s PMM, there are only a few more chances since the semester is rapidly coming to an end. I hope everyone has a lovely Tuesday.

What You Missed At Pizza My Mind

stihl

HAPPY MONDAY CAPTAINS! Last Thursday’s Pizza My Mind seminar was presented by Virginia Beach-based STIHL, Inc. Mike McLean, a talent recruiter for the U.S, operations headquarters came to CNU to talk about what it’s like to work for a company that engineers and manufactures outdoor power equipment.

He started off by sharing a few notab​​le facts. STIHL is the #1 selling brand of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment in America. The company produces 263 products and celebrated 40 years in 2014. He also remarked about the Great Recession, when the country was on an economic decline and a number of companies had to lay their employees off. He said that STIHL was one of the exceptions and that STIHL never had to lay off their employees, even when times were tough. On the contrary, the company grew because there was never a time where grass didn’t need cutting! The company prides itself on controlling 55% of the world’s production in this field. They have four plants, located in Germany, Brazil, China and VA Beach.

Mike also showed a few company videos that highlighted STIHL’s culture and workplace environment.  The audience especially liked the patriotic Built in America video!!

Interestingly, STIHL, Inc. employs over 1,900 in Virginia Beach in a variety of positions from manufacturing, produce assembly, manufacturing engineering, sales, marketing and finance.  At the end of his presentation, Mike discussed STIHL’s current career and internship opportunities noting that students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply.  Internship opportunities are posted in February so be sure to check out their website if you are interested!!  Don’t forget to join us for this week’s seminar right before Spring Break!

News Release

CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT UNIVERSITY
News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 2016

Public’s Contact for publication:
Dr. Anton Riedl, Chair
Department of Physics, Computer Science and Engineering
(757) 594-7829

Media Contact:
Lori Jacobs
Director of Public Relations
(757) 594-7961

Note: Photo attached; caption information follows.
IMG_6468 IMG_6474

 

CNU STUDENTS GATHER TO VIEW LIVE BROADCAST OF PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING GRAVITATIONAL WAVE DISCOVERY.

(NEWPORT NEWS, Va.) — Over 50 students from Christopher Newport University gathered among faculty in the Luter Hall Atrium to watch a live press conference presented by the National Science Foundation to update the scientific community on the first detection of gravitational waves – or ripples in the fabric of spacetime – using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).

“It was a surreal experience to witness the announcement of such a major breakthrough in physics during my lifetime, while surrounded by those in my department,” says David Hamblin, a student in computer engineering and computer science. “It’s strange that this wasn’t something I read about in a textbook, but rather heard directly from the scientists.”

Caroline McElhenny, a Physics graduate and Masters student in teaching adds: “It is amazing how precise LIGO can take measurements, since gravitational waves are on such an incredibly small scale. I’m very excited to see more science done in this field and to see how much more we can learn about the universe. The scientists and engineers have done some amazing work to get us where we are now!”

“In five years we have been privileged to see two amazing announcements in physics: the discovery of the Higgs boson and now the detection of gravity waves,” remarks Professor David Heddle. “This is an exciting time to study physics!”

For more information, contact Dr. Anton Riedl, riedl@cnu.edu, Associate Professor at Christopher Newport University

 

What You Missed At Pizza My Mind

idddd

RISE AND SHINE CAPTAINS! I hope everyone had an incredible weekend and is ready to take today by storm. Last Thursday’s Pizza My Mind was hosted by iDTech which is a summer technology camp for kids. Their mission is to “provide students with high-energy, hands-on technology education in a summer camp setting.” And that is exactly what they do! iDTech is the world’s #1 tech camp with over 150 prestigious campus locations nationwide. And to top it all off, not only do the campers love iDTech, but the employees do as well! iDTech has been voted a Top Workplace 6 years running by the Bay Area News Group.

Mark and Kim dove into their presentation and hit all the major points right off the bat. They started off by telling the audience what iDTech has to offer. Things such as competitive pay, networking opportunities, leadership development, room & board, and internship credits/hours. One of the interesting things about these camps is that they are located on college campuses in over 29 states. Meaning that perspective camp counselors have the opportunity to choose where they spend their summer!

iDTech is looking to hire programmers, proven leaders and on site managers, unity mobile developers, Robotics Engineers, Java & C++ programmers. Essentially, they are looking for people that have a wide skill set. There are five divisions that make up the company, iD Tech Camps, iD Tech Mini, Alexa Cafe, iD Programming Academy, and iD Game Design & Dev Academy. Another thing that distinguishes iDTech from other summer camps is their One Camper One Tree program. They have partnered up with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant one tree for every camper who attends their programs. Their ultimate goal is to plant 1 million trees and they are certainly on their way there! So far, they’ve helped plant 155,000 trees and expect to plant another 60,000 this year.

So what can you expect as an iD instructor? Long weeks, instructors usually work about 50-60 hours. You can expect to become an effective teacher and to build connections! The presenters showed a video about halfway through that showed a bunch of instructors talking about their experiences with iDTech and a bunch of them mentioned the amazing networking that came with the job. As an instructor, you can expect to gain a lot of real like skills that will help with resume building. Although the main focus of these camps is learning, it’s also a summer camp, meaning that these campers also want to have a lot of fun! Going off of that, instructors can expect to see gaming tournaments, be a part of outdoor activities and theme days!

Last but not least, they are looking to hire 1,600 people this summer with 24 spots currently waiting to be filled in VA!

Sophomore Signing Day

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope that all of you manage to find some sunshine on this rather gloomy day. Two days ago, I was too mesmerized by the button I was promised to read the fine print and signed my life away to our department. If you haven’t already guessed, this blog post will be about all things Signing Day.

What is Signing Day?

Signing Day is an event for all second-year students to officially declare their majors. The ceremony is held in the DSU where the Sophomores sign their Departmental registry to denote their field of study. The best part is, every student gets a button that they get to pin on their backpacks to show off their declared major to the world. This year, 91% of PCSE Sophomores attended the event, and that is where I had the opportunity to speak with Adam Fendley and Sadie Rynestad.

aaron

sadie
What is your major and why?
Adam: “Computer Science! I used to be interested in studying video production until I took a Computer Science class in High School. I’m not a very artistic person, so I realized by writing code I could create things that did exactly what I envisioned in my head, something I always struggled with in video. I used that high school class as a starting point and started contributing to a lot of open source projects on GitHub, and that’s when I started to see just how awesome code is. Our society has been fundamentally changed from the automation and information availability that programming (and the Internet) affords, and I want to contribute to that.”
Sadie: “I am a Computer Engineering major! I have known since the 7th grade that I wanted to be an engineer but wasn’t sure what type. Once I got to CNU, I took a few computer classes and realized that Computer Engineering was the path that I wanted to take. I haven’t looked back since and I absolutely love it!”
A lot of schools don’t have a Signing Day, what do you think about CNU’s choice to have a specific day for students to “officially” declare their major?
Adam: “I enjoyed Signing Day. It’s awesome to be able to officially put your name down, shake the hands of the professors and department staff, and feel like you’re apart of the family. I’ve received so much support from the PCSE department, so that’s a great feeling.”
Sadie: “I think Signing Day is an amazing way for CNU students to verify that they are now stepping into a huge new chapter of their lives. It really puts the future in perspective because it’s right in our reach. I think other schools should have a Signing Day too, because although its a quick ceremony, it means a lot to the students.”

What was going through your mind and what was it like to sign your name?

Adam: “I have a really awful signature.”
Sadie: “It was a feeling of relief once I signed my name because it reminded me that I am on the right track to reach my goal.”
What was your favorite part about signing day?
Adam: “There was a live band and that was pretty rad. Also, props to whoever designed the PCSE button. That thing is legit. It was nice to see a bunch of familiar faces and be able to celebrate together!”
Sadie: “My favorite part about Signing Day was seeing everyone dressed up, being in such a beautiful place such as the ballroom and of course, the cookies.”
All I know is that the PCSE department designed the coolest button of them all. Hope to see everyone at Pizza My Mind today, which will be hosted by iDTech!

What You Missed At Pizza My Mind

coverosssHappy Friday Captains!! After what felt like the longest week ever, we finally made it to Friday. Yesterday, Coveros founder and CEO, Jeffery Payne, came to CNU to talk about his experience in starting numerous successful software companies and the agile software development, DevOps, and cybersecurity opportunities that exist at Coveros for both graduating students and interns.

Coveros is a software company that builds security-critical software applications using agile methods. Payne’s personal background is that he has been in the business of starting up companies for the past 25 years. However, he is most proud of Coveros because of its uniqueness. He received both his BS and MS in Computer Science at the College of William and Mary. After graduating, he had a job lined up with a big company, but realized that he wasn’t happy there. Not too long into this job, he quit and started up his first company in 1992 and hasn’t look backed since.

Coveros was started up about 8 years ago to build software applications, specifically for people who are needing security in their codes. This company builds and delivers secure software applications using agile methods, and they are “located” in Northern VA, outside of DC. The term located is used loosely here because Coveros technically doesn’t have an office. It’s something that distinguished Coveros from other companies, they are a virtual organization. The logic behind this is that: “We’re technologists, why do we need a physical space?” Every new Coveros employee gets a brand new laptop, cellphone (with a plan included) and free home wifi. Coveros provides these three things in place of a physical office space, how neat is that?

A few of the services that Coveros offers include: agile development and testing DevOps implementations, agile transformations, agile coaching and mentoring. Coveros prides themselves in being a 50/50 company, meaning that they work both commercial and federal government jobs.

Payne likes to think of Coveros as a 2.0, meaning that it’s the new and improved version of what he started all those years ago. It’s an entrepreneurial company, they expect that everyone in the company have ideas and act upon them. Payne stressed the fact that Coveros doesn’t hire based on skills, they do not care what you know from a technology perspective, because the syntax is the easy part, its the problem solving that’s difficult. For that reason, he mentioned that Coveros heavily looks for critical thinkers and hardcore software people who want to build software applications.

One of the benefits of working at Coveros is the opportunity for professional growth. Payne stressed the importance of growing the company from within. He said that at Coveros “[they] groom [their] people internally and quickly through a very focused a career growth plan.” He went on to mention how successful Coveros is in keeping their employees by simply treating them right. At their first company, they went a full 7 years without someone leaving the company and he believes that a strong employee/boss relationship is vital to a company’s success.

If any of this sparks an interest in you, here is what Coveros is looking for in future employees. They are searching for full time hired as well as summer interns. They want people who have a desire to learn from industry recognized software experts. Those who value a flexible and entrepreneurial environment. Coveros is searching for those who are constantly wanting to learn new skills both in technology and business. And most importantly, someone who is willing to get in on the ground floor of an innovative company.

The intern program provided by Coveros is real work. Interns will be put on a team with other employees and Payne mentioned that in just one summer interns will be able to develop a software program from start to finish. He guarantees that interns will be able to come back to CNU and feel like they “can kick butt.” He mentioned that on various occations, interns have said that they learned more in one summer at Coveros than they learned in the first 3 years of school. This is due to the fact that in the program, they take all that critical thinking and theory that is learned in school and apply it to real problems. This is a paid internship for roughly about 2 months out of the summer vacation with the possibility of a full time hire after the internship is complete.

Society of Women Engineers

Good afternoon CNU! We’re starting right into our third week of the Spring semester and many new and exciting things are coming up! Today’s blog post is all about the Society of Women Engineers, SWE for short. Last week, I had the privileged of talking to Professor Lynn Lambert, who is the faculty adviser for the new organization.

About SWE

SWE is an international organization that was established in 1950. Their mission is to: “Stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, while demonstrating the value of diversity.” Professor Lambert mentioned that nationally, fewer than 20% of undergraduates in engineering are women and the disciplines in our department are especially affected. SWE was set up to give women a place to talk to other women engineers and form a community.

How SWE Came to CNU

CNU had the beginnings of a SWE years ago but it never really took off. This year, a few students came to Dr. Lambert and asked if they could get an organization started up. Department chair, Dr. Riedl supported the idea and at the first Pizza My Mind of the school year mentioned that if anyone was interested in such an organization to let him know! The department talked about several kinds of organizations since there are many out there that are similar but decided on SWE. “The incredible thing about SWE is that when we [Dr. Lambert on behalf of PCSE] wrote to them [SWE Hampton Roads], they mentioned that they would allow all six of our department’s majors to count for membership! This was the organization that allowed the most amount of CNU’s women to join and that was the main reason why it was chosen over the others.”

Hopes for the Future

“I really want the students to decide the direction that they want it to take. They have talked about several interesting ideas. We’re considering starting a mentorship program and already have a considerable number of professional mentors from industry and from federal labs who have volunteered to mentor our students. Some other members want to do an outreach program with girls scouts! There are many great ideas floating around, a few members want to do tours of labs and engineering/science companies and labs. I truly cannot wait to see how far SWE goes at CNU.”

swe

Last Friday, SWE hosted a kickoff meeting in the DSU. The young women within the department who expressed interest in the organization were there along with some professors. SWE also invited women who are a part of a SWE organization that have graduated with a degree in engineering. There were two guest speakers (pictured above on both sides of Dr. Lambert) who spoke about their experiences with SWE and all the wonderful things that it has brought into their lives. It was at this kickoff event that I had the opportunity to talk to Haley Currence (pictured below on the right), president of the new SWE chapter at CNU. Currence is a part of the class of 2019 and working towards her degree in computer engineering!

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The Process

“In April, the SWE chapter at CNU will officially be chartered! When we were trying to get enough members to make SWE an official club at CNU, both CNU and SWE asked for a minimum of 10 women to get the club started. It was an incredible feeling when we got the notification that 22 women in the department showed interested in being a part of this and signed up. I was really overwhelmed in the beginning because it was just an idea that we had, we never truly thought that we would be starting a major club at CNU. This organization could be on campus for years to come and it’s surreal thinking that I was a major part of getting it started. I am beyond honored to have been a part of this.”

The Importance

“Being women in this department, it’s tough. It’s like being a minority on top of being another minority. I would like to see a support system built through this organization. I really want to emphasize the importance of unconditional support to the women and sticking together in a male dominate department. I would like this organization to encourage female students to not sit quietly and let male classmates next to her answer the question. I would like to see this organization build a community that empowers women to be courageous and be proud of being smart. We’re engineering majors, and that’s pretty awesome.”

What You Missed at Pizza My Mind

Happy Monday Captains!! I hope that everyone’s ready to get back into the swing of things after a cold weekend in. Last Thursday’s Pizza My Mind seminar was presented by the MITRE Corporation. MITRE is a non- profit company that provides defense and intelligence, aviation, cyber security, homeland security solutions and much more!

MITRE’s Andreas Tolk, who is a liaison for the company came to give the presentation. He started off by talking about the company’s background. MITRE was established in 1958 to serve the public interest, meaning that they are a non profit organization Tolk mentioned the company’s spirit of innovation and their deep understanding of systems engineering.

After finishing up with what the company does and its background, he moved on to talk about the job openings. They currently employ 7,300 people. He continued to mention the types of characteristics that MITRE looks for in prospective employees. Some of the characteristics include: critical problem solving skills, a strong background in science, mathematics, social sciences and systems engineering.

Currently there are two programs within MITRE that have openings, the Internship Program and the Apprentice program. Those interested in the Internship Program will be happy to hear that the position is paid. The program offers interns to be members of a team within the company. The types of things that interns are involved with are sponsored or MITRE research programs. In addition, these intern teams eventually become part of project teams. The ultimate goal for these intern teams is to be evaluated for positions as MTS. He finished off this part of the presentation by mentioning that the summer Internship in Hampton has 8 or so positions currently available and that MITRE is soliciting for resumes now through April!

Well that’s it for now! Make sure to tune in for the following post about CNU’s newest organization, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). One last thing, if you’re interested in learning more about MITRE, they will be at the job fair on Wednesday, January 27th!

What You Missed At Pizza My Mind

Presenters Nicholas Casetta and Ian Marcelo

Presenters Nicholas Casetta and Ian Marcelo

Happy Friday and welcome back Captains! This year’s very first PMM was presented by Liebherr, the world’s leading manufacturer of construction machinery.

Nicholas Casetta, Senior Manager of the IT department kicked things off by telling the 128 CNU students that Liebherr is a family owned business that was founded in 1949 by Hans Liebherr. Currently, there is a 3rd generation Liebherr in charge of over 130 companies worldwide and over 40,000 employees! Casetta went on to mention how diverse the company is, it does everything from mobile cranes, mining equipment, domestic appliances and even hotels.

Casetta then focused on the mining division within the company because of the Liebherr Mining Equipment Newport News co. (LME)was established in 1970. Its proximity to CNU is roughly about 10-15 minutes. Currently, the company produces over 50 trucks a year but the plan is to have that number double in 2016. The product range consists of hydraulic excavators, off highway trucks, dozers, wheel loaders, and mobile cranes. He mentioned the product range to show the audience that the business is evolving within itself and changing based off of customer demands.

The LME IT department currently employs nine people. These nine are split up into two groups, Infrastructure and Helpdesk, and Business Processes and ERP Support. Liebherr is looking to do a lot within the next few years, there are already significant projects defined. Casetta went on to talk about the current and future opportunities that are available within Liebherr. Some include the BI Migration Project, where there is a current opening and the PML Project, where there will be a future opening. He finished off his part of the presentation with mentioning that there are many other projects in line.

Ian Marcelo, who is a Senior System Analyst at LME came up to the microphone to specify what the BI Migration Project was. BI stands for Business Intelligence, their goal is to migrate the current BI environment from SL server 2008 to SQL server 2012. He strongly spoke about the hands on experience one would gain with the Microsoft BI stack of development tools and operational analysis. Marcelo finished up with mentioning that the internship being offered would be for 6 months. One would be provided training and would work alongside himself and Casetta.

To finish off the presentation, the floor was open to questions where someone asked about opportunities overseas. Although they are currently not looking for overseas assistance, they assured the audience that the project offered will have global impact!