Student Essay Contest

Biography of Dr. Elizabeth Chambliss

2001 AWM Essay Contest: Honorable Mention in the Middle School Student Category

by Evan Gilliland

Dr. Elizabeth Chambliss is the research director for the Program on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School. Dr. Chambliss earned her Ph.D. in Sociology and her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin. She was a law professor and author at the University of Texas before taking the position she holds now.
Dr. Chambliss was motivated to accept a position that necessitated the use of statistics because of her specific interests in sociology and law – two subjects that do not, on the surface, seem to have anything to do with math at all – but they do in Dr. Chambliss’ work. In her position she uses statistics to count lawyers. Her research is about who gets to be a lawyer, what lawyers do, and about the role of lawyers in American society. These questions are important for people who may want to become lawyers and for people who teach lawyers how to find jobs. It is also important for government officials who make the laws about what a lawyer is allowed to do. Dr. Chambliss uses statistics to back up her arguments about who should get to be a lawyer and what kinds of things lawyers should be allowed to do.
Because her career as a law teacher and a researcher requires her to use mathematical and statistical data all the time, Dr. Chambliss says math, especially statistics, is an important tool that she uses all the time. She is currently working on projects for the American Bar Association that involve gender and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. Her data is helpful in setting policies for admission to law schools and establishing hiring practices for law firms. Her statistics are being used in some reverse discrimination trials where she is an expert witness.
Dr. Chambliss comes from a white, middle-class family and cultural background. When she was growing up, her father was a Marine officer and her mother was a homemaker. Now her father teaches college; his subject is drug abuse and the criminal justice system. Her mother works for a local bar association (that is an organization for lawyers), and her sister is a paralegal in an immigration law firm.
The advice Dr. Chambliss would offer for students who are interested in pursuing careers in the mathematical sciences is to not be afraid of math or statistics! She says there are lots of “facts” in the world and lots of ways to use statistics, and that it is easy once you get the hang of it. She also believes that it is an important thing to know, so that you can make good decisions in your personal life, and so that you can be a good citizen. She thinks it will enable you to hold people (teachers, accountants) and entities (government, corporations) accountable when they make decisions affecting you. If you do not understand statistics, you will not understand what your government is talking about when it tells you how it makes decisions. On the other hand, people who are experts in statistics have a lot of influence in politics.
Dr. Chambliss lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has lots of different hobbies. She enjoys chess, soccer, cooking, detective stories, gardening, and music. I enjoy most of those too!
Dr. Chambliss is well suited for a career as a researcher because of her knowledge of statistics. According to her, if you have math expertise, any field with a need for that expertise will find you just like it found her.
About the author: I am Evan Marcel Gilliland, student, pianist, basket ballplayer. I am twelve years old and in the sixth grade at O’Henry Middle School in Austin, Texas. My favorite subject in school is math. My parents have convinced me that I have to do well in math in order to have career options when I am older.
Some essays have been modified for posting on the AWM website.