Student Essay Contest

Good Vibrations

2015 AWM Essay Contest: Honorable Mention in Middle School Category

Courtney Amsden, Desert Ridge Middle School

As part of my 6th grade gifted math class, we discussed the unique role of women in math professions. Several women who work in math and engineering jobs came to visit us at school. I was able to interview a vibration engineer named Laura Jacobs. This essay describes what I learned about her, and her job, during the interview.
Dr. Jacobs is a vibration engineer for Sandia National Laboratory. She is married, has one boy, and is expecting a little girl soon. She loves music and plays French horn. She thinks that music is sort of connected to math because you get to see many unique things in the various types of music/instruments. I think math is like that because there are many different types of math and different methods/ways to solve problems. Her dad also liked math, along with her brother, who had a job related to math/science. I was surprised about how her mom inspired her, and I thought that she was very kind and loving to do that for her daughter.
Dr. Jacobs said that as a child, she had been in gifted programs throughout her primary, middle and high school years. She has always been good at math – it has just come naturally to her. She had many teachers that helped her on the way, like her 2nd grade teacher, who shared lots of enthusiasm for math and science. When she was little, she was interested in becoming a veterinarian, but then in 6th grade she began to like engineering. For college, she attended both Purdue and Georgia Tech. There were not a lot of women in her classes at college. She wanted to have a math-related profession because she loved math and wanted to see how the world worked. I was inspired by that. I thought that she was correct that math can help you understand how the world works. Her career choice was inspired by her mother. Her mother believed that the schools were teaching silly ways of math, so her mom took on the responsibility of teaching additional math concepts to her daughter herself.
I had never heard of a vibration engineer before talking to Dr. Jacobs. An example of what a vibration engineer does is to test radios on a shaker table to see if they will still work on bumpy roads. When I asked her why she likes math, and her job, she explained that it helps her see the world in a different light and it just makes sense to her. Dr. Jacobs enjoys her job and thinks it is challenging, and fun, at the same time. She feels it is challenging at times because she doesn’t always know the answers, but she believes she is making a difference. Some skills that she has to use in her job are problem-solving and research. Her job was hard to get because you had to learn a lot and work very hard. She does sometimes feel like she is being treated differently than the men at her job, but not necessarily in a negative way. She says the job is very demanding and intense, however, she has many friends at work which makes it enjoyable. She thinks her job is very fun because she can help make people’s dreams come true.
I really enjoyed talking to Dr. Jacobs and learned a lot from the interview. I had originally thought being an engineer sounded boring, but I learned that it can be a lot of fun. I also liked learning the she was a musician, because I really enjoy music as well. I was inspired to learn that she sometimes doubted herself, but that she always had people supporting and helping her. This interview was very fun and I learned a lot about women in math and engineering professions.
About the Student
My name is Courtney Amsden. I am a sixth grader at Desert Ridge Middle School. I have always been strong in the subjects math and science, mostly because of my parents. I am in gifted math and also love music. My whole family includes nine people, all of which/almost all of which love music as well. I play the cello as well as piano.   My dad is the “math geek” in our family. I am in an Air Force family and have moved to about five or six different states
Some essays have been modified for posting on the AWM website.