Dr. Mary Schurgot “pays it forward” to help alma mater and LGS maintain STEM leadership
Posted on: March 7, 2016

For Dr. Mary Schurgot, a technical manager in the LGS Internet and Cybersecurity Research department in Florham Park, interest in an education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) began early. “I liked math and science growing up, and my father, who is an engineer, encouraged me to pursue a career in engineering,” she says.

Mary pursued her childhood interests throughout her academic career, earning her Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology. Stevens is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, New Jersey, overlooking the Manhattan skyline. The school is home to three national research centers of excellence, as well as joint research programs focused on critical industries and education.

Learning by doing

To enhance the value of her classroom instruction, Mary enrolled in a cooperative education program that allowed her to alternate between semesters of full-time work and full-time study. Her four co-op semesters included research-oriented positions with the U.S. Army and at the Wireless Network Security Center (WiNSeC) located on the Stevens campus.

“The research I performed at WiNSeC on triangulation in wireless networks led to the development of my senior design project in my last year at Stevens,” Mary says. “My group developed the Campus Emergency Location System, or CELS, to enable emergency reporting using wireless signals to supplement ‘blue phones’ on university campuses.”

After completing her doctorate degree, Mary kept in touch with her professors and helped to organize mutual visits between LGS and Stevens, including a “Research Exchange” where LGS cybersecurity and engineering researchers spoke to professors on the Stevens campus. These visits led to an invitation for Mary to join the External Advisory Board of Stevens’ Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department.

Paying it forward

The board consists of six subject matter experts from industry, government, academia, and the research community. Its members guide the school’s ongoing development of educational and research programs and provide feedback on its efforts to maintain its accreditation.

“I’m the most recent graduate on the board, so I think I offer a very current perspective on how Stevens can continue to prepare today’s students for STEM careers,” Mary says. “I’m also excited to be able to take what I’ve learned and ‘pay it forward,’ to help today’s students follow my path into a STEM career—and help my LGS colleagues stay current with developments in the academic world.

“The most valuable skill I gained from my STEM education is the ability to think critically about a problem,” Mary concludes. “To dissect it, embrace its complexity, and be creative in solving it. In one word? ‘Innovate.’”

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