March, 2017: Jennifer Fowler is a cyber analyst in RISC’s Cyber Operations Analysis and Research team, and is the first non-PhD to be honored with making the keynote speech at the 30th Annual Science Careers in Search of Women event. She is an enthusiastic promoter of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers for young women.
Jennifer shared her thoughts with 300 female high school students: STEM is exciting, you can work on a diverse array of research areas, and I want to see more women get involved. You never have to settle for just one career direction, you can pivot from one area to any other STEM field once you develop a scientific thought process. I started in genetics, then became interested in infrastructure analysis, and now have found my passion in cyber security. In a way, it was my thinking that pivoted: how would an intruder attack physical infrastructure? Then, how would I apply that same intrusion methodology to cyber systems?
Mentoring girls to go into STEM fields is a passion of mine. There are three things I emphasize to them in our conversations:
- It’s ok to not know what you want to do – you can always try many different aspects of STEM
- Listen to your gut! If you find something that excites you, go with it!
- Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith
The keynote concluded with an exercise that showed the pratical application of encryption, utilizing cipher disks. Students became increasingly comfortable with encrypting and decrypting messages via a Cesar cipher. This exercise taught students how encryption can and is used daily by a majority of computer users.
Fowler, who in her spare time can be found proselytizing for STEM at high schools around the Chicago area, was enthusiastic about the Science Careers event: “I love educating younger generations on the opportunities that STEM can provide!”