Sept. 14, 2020 — Six CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Mathematics alumni are doing exceptional work with so-called “big data” out at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) in Port Hueneme.

So much so, that Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) Acquisition Support Manager Robert Howard would welcome any other CSUCI students interested in a career with the U.S. Navy.

“I love working with CSUCI,” Howard said. “Most of the students have roots here and are looking for a long-term career with the Navy. I love the fact that most of them are local.”

CSUCI alumnus Danielle Wight, who holds a bachelors in science (BS) in Mathematics and is finishing up her Mathematics master’s (MS) degree thesis, explained that she and five other alumni are helping the U.S. Navy use big data to determine how to best invest in and maintain naval systems over their expected lifetime.

“There is a big shift in the Navy,” said Wight. “They are now using Model-Based Product Support (MBPS). We’re considered the logisticians. The point of MBPS is to make sure all the data bases are in one place and reflect all of the correct information. We are looking at accuracy and reliability of the systems.”

In other words, Wight and the other logisticians are developing and using mathematical modeling to analyze the Navy’s “big data.” The term is used to describe the analysis of massive sets of data that or too large or too complex to be handled with traditional data-processing software.

“The data is gathered and inputted into mathematical models that are designed by the students and other analysts,” said Professor of Mathematics Geoffrey Buhl, Ph.D., who had several of the alumni in class. “By putting the data into mathematical models, they can make different predictions on how design choices will impact a system or how much it will cost to maintain, for example.”

Both Buhl and Professor of Mathematics Cynthia Wyels, Ph.D., take great pride in how well their former students are doing at NSWC PHD.

“It’s no surprise to see CSUCI math graduates contributing to the work at Naval Base Ventura County,” Wyels said. “They have the opportunity to build their technical skills, content knowledge, communication prowess and ability to work as part of a team while in the CSUCI math program.”

The other five students working under Howard’s supervision are: Jim McDonough and Victor Moreno, who both hold a BS and MS in Mathematics; Cameron Marsden, who holds a BS in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science; Jennifer Rodriguez, who earned a BS in Biology and a minor in Math; and Carissa Romero, who has a BS in Mathematics. The degrees all came from CSUCI except for Rodriguez and Romero who earned their MS from other institutions, and Moreno, who holds a Ph.D. from another university.

Romero, a 2011 graduate, took a winding road to her mathematics degree.

Born in El Paso, Texas, she first attended the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), where she changed her major three times. She finally took a semester off to participate in a college program at Walt Disney World in Florida and coached softball for her boss’ daughter.

“Then I realized I wanted to be a teacher and coach softball in high school,” Romero said. “I didn’t know what to major in and my boss said, ‘What’s your favorite subject?’ and I said ‘That’s easy: math.’”

Romero transferred to CSUCI when her husband was transferred to Ventura County 12 years ago and realized a degree in math gave her many career choices. 

“Math is so much more than doing equations,” she said. “It teaches you to be logical. Not just with math problems but with everyday life.”

Wight credits the CSUCI Grad Fest with getting her job at NSWC PHD. She graduated from the University of Redlands and then taught high school math for nine years. When she and her husband both got teaching jobs in the Moorpark Unified School District, she enrolled in CSUCI to earn her master’s in Mathematics.

She had a job, but when a fellow graduate student encouraged her to go to the CSUCI Grad Fest, curiosity and then serendipity took over and she went.

“I went to like 1,000 booths and was chatting with one of the guys with the base who said ‘Send me your resume.’ I wanted to see what was out there so I did…and I got this job,” Wight said.

Faculty like Professor of Mathematics Jason Miller, Ph.D., work to keep the pipeline between NSWC PHD at CSUCI’s Mathematics graduates strong. He also encourages undergraduates to check into a national program funded by the Office of Naval Research in Washington DC called the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP).

The Navy also has a Science, Mathematics and Research Transformation (SMART) program in which college students get tuition, a salary and summer stipends for research they conduct while in school. In exchange, they commit to work for a few years as a civilian employee for the Navy.

To learn more about both programs, visit:

https://www.smartscholarship.org/smart and http://nreip.asee.org.

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