STEM Careers: City Planner

Michael Hill

Michael Hill

Planning Coordinator for Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services

Graduated from Western Kentucky University

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It is critically important for our society’s advancement for science research and exploration to also advance exponentially.

How did you become interested in science, specifically geography?

From a young age I remember being interested in the science fields, but it was a 7th grade geography class that really sparked my interest. Unfortunately, geography is an under-appreciated field of study at the high school level in our country. In fact, I didn’t have another geography class after 7th grade until my first year of college.

I started at Western Kentucky University as a geography major, and I stuck with it throughout my four years on “The Hill.” Early on during my first year at WKU I learned about the field of City Planning, which was a component of WKU’s geography program. I was able to keep my Geography major, but steered my focus toward the City & Regional Planning option offered within the major. I’ve been a City Planner ever since.

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Tell us about your job and what it is you do for Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services.

Well, during my 14 years as a City Planner I have worked in large urban and small suburban government planning offices and I’ve spent time working in the private sector as a planning consultant. During most of the time spent working in the public sector I have been a plan reviewer, but my role within Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services has changed within the last year or so.

I currently am the person in charge of Louisville’s Land Development Code (LDC). I regularly field questions regarding various topics found within the LDC. We are always looking for ways to improve the document. In fact, currently our community is undergoing a complete review of the entire LDC. It is quite a large endeavor and I am leading the effort.

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Why is it important to the future of this country to get more students interested in science?

Learning about the various science related fields helps us better understand how and why certain elements of our environment came to be. It is critically important for our society’s advancement for science research and exploration to also advance exponentially.

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What is the professional goal of a city planner like yourself?

My goal as a public sector City Planner is to continuously attempt to have a beneficial impact to our community’s built environment. The decisions and policies set forth by our government leaders can certainly be influenced by local City Planners in an effort to create desirable, high quality spaces for the human experience.

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What do you think would help get students more interested in science at a younger age?

Teachers play a key role in developing an interest for science in students at an early age. If teachers really enjoy and are passionate about teaching science, then more students will continue to be interested in science as they proceed through school.

STEM Careers: Java Developer

Viswanath Guntupalli

Viswanath Guntupalli

Java Developer for Healthcare Management Systems in Nashville, TN

Graduated from Western Kentucky University

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How did you become interested in technology, particularly software development?

I’ve been interested in technology since I was 12 years old. That was the first time I got to play with a computer and soon I was amazed at the way it works. My interest in programming started a little later, probably when I was 15. That was the first time I was taught basic programming and I knew that very moment that it was my cup of tea. I liked the fact that you could write your own programs to make them do whatever you wanted to do. I also found programming challenging and I liked the idea of being challenged by a problem and the fact that you could solve it by writing programs in several different ways. As I grew older my passion toward programming also grew with me. The more I learned about computer science, the more interested I became in it.

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The future of our country lies with today’s youth as they become tomorrow’s citizens.

Tell us about your job and what it is you do for Healthcare Management Systems.

I work as a Java developer at Healthcare Management Systems. We here at HMS develop the software that is used at hospitals by doctors and nurses to better manage their patients. Right now I am part of a team that is working on building a component of software which tracks the allergies, problems and medication history of a patient and presents it to the doctor. As a developer, I’m working on the look and feel of the software (called graphical user interface) and my goal is to develop screens which have good ease of use and a pleasing look.

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Why is it important to the future of this country to get more students interested in technology?

The United States is the epicenter of technology of this world. All the greatest inventions and discoveries in the history of mankind have been made on this great land, most of the software companies which define the shape of technology in the present age have been founded here. Given the present day scenario where we face a lot of competition from several growing countries across the globe, it is really important for us as a country to keep our technological edge.

To keep the United States on the top of technology we have to show more interest in innovation and technology. The future of our country lies with today’s youth as they become tomorrow’s citizens. If we have more students studying science and technology, the USA will become more progressive in the field of technology. Also, it is projected that all future jobs will be related to technology by the year 2020. The USA will fall short because hundreds of thousands of people will lack the necessary technological skills. We should show more interest in science by investing in today’s students and also attracting the most talented students across the globe.

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What is the professional goal of a Java developer like yourself?

As a Java developer who just started his career, I see myself in a lead role in few years. My professional goal is to become a Java architect who outlays the solution for complex software problems.

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What do you think would help get students more interested in software development at a younger age?

To be more interested in software development at a later stage, students must show interest in mathematics in their foundation years. Software development or programming is directly related to mathematics; to have good programming skills you must have good mathematical problem solving abilities. Students must show interest in math and work hard to become good at math, which would lay the route for them to become good programmers.

STEM Careers: Medical Physicist

Sarah Rogers

Sarah Rogers

Medical Physicist at The Cancer Center at The Medical Center in Bowling Green

Graduated from Western Kentucky University

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How did you become interested in science?

I have loved science and math ever since I was a child. I remember two of my favorite gifts growing up were a miniature microscope and a toy circuit board. I had great science and math teachers in school that helped fuel the passion.

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The main reason I entered the field of Medical Physics was to use my science knowledge to improve the lives of cancer patients. It is a very rewarding job.

Tell us about your job and what it is you do for The Cancer Center.

My graduate school professor has one of the best descriptions of a medical physicist’s job. Basically, as a pharmacist is to drugs, a medical physicist is to radiation. In other words, the physician prescribes a certain dose of radiation to the patient, and the medical physicist is responsible for making sure the correct dose is delivered. There are many aspects to the job, including calibrating the machines that deliver the radiation and verifying that the customized radiation plans for each patient are correct.

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Why is it important to the future of this country to get more students interested in science?

I believe a lot of people take for granted the impact science has on their daily lives. Many of our creature-comforts including electricity, air conditioning, microwave dinners, cell phones, etc. would not exist without science. People can live longer, healthier lives thanks to science-driven medical advancements. Obviously these are just a few ways in which science has improved our lives. It is crucial that students continue to be interested in science so as a society we can continue to enjoy the advancements science brings.

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What is the professional goal of a Medical Physicist like yourself?

My number one professional goal is to ensure the safety and quality of patient care. The main reason I entered the field of Medical Physics was to use my science knowledge to improve the lives of cancer patients. It is a very rewarding job.

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What do you think would help get students more interested in science at a younger age?

I think teachers and parents should be enthusiastic about science. If science is exciting, more students will want to be involved.

U.S. Students Still Lag Globally in Math and Science

Elementary school students board the busFrom the New York Times: “Fourth- and eighth-grade students in the United States continue to lag behind students in several East Asian countries and some European nations in math and science, although American fourth graders are closer to the top performers in reading, according to test results released on Tuesday.”

Read the full article by clicking here.

Kentucky launches STEMx Network

The STEMx Network is launched in Kentucky
Photo courtesy of UKNow

Kentucky is the 16th state to join the STEMx Network, which was created by the Battelle Memorial Institute, the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization. The STEMx Network is a grassroots movement dedicated to transforming STEM education in America. The University of Kentucky’s P20 Innovation Lab is facilitating Kentucky’s launch and will act as liason with various stakeholders across the state.

Read the full article from KyForward by clicking here. 

WKU celebrates opening of Innoplexx, the Student Business Accelerator

WKU’s Research Foundation celebrated the grand opening of a 1,200-square-foot space in the Center for Research and Development for Innoplexx, the WKU Student Business Accelerator, on Tuesday (Dec. 4) at the Center for Research and Development on the corner of Nashville Road and Campbell Lane.

The Innoplexx name being unveiled.
WKU President Gary Ransdell helped unveil Innoplexx as the new name of the Student Business Accelerator during a ceremony Dec. 4. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

“The student business accelerator is an incredibly important step for WKU as we seek to create an environment that facilitates commercialization and moves intellectual property into the marketplace,” said WKU President Gary Ransdell. “This is a great example of WKU setting the stage for our students to have the opportunity to implement their ideas and start a business. The main dynamic is allowing young minds to achieve their potential.”

Innoplexx gives students a place to work and network with others that are in the first phase of starting their business. The room provided was renovated to meet the needs of what students today expect out of their work space. Lining the walls are four retro style desks turned in various directions to interact with others who may stop by to work. Two large white boards are on the walls so they can brainstorm, a ping-pong table doubles as a conference table, and a large sectional couch and ottoman face a large screen TV that students can plug their laptops into and work on the large screen.

People mill around in the Innoplexx room
A room at WKU’s Center for Research and Development was renovated to house Innoplexx, the Student Business Accelerator. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Innoplexx is a partnership between the WKU Research Foundation, the Central Region ICC (part of the Kentucky Innovation Network), Warren County, the City of Bowling Green, the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, the Bowling Green Technical College, and Innovate Kentucky.

“Building talent and leading innovation is the theme of the chamber this year,” said D. Gaines Penn, Chairman of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce. “This announcement of the student business accelerator at WKU is a prime example of that theme.”

“The Student Business Accelerator is the perfect place to create thoughts or sparks into products and then into businesses,” said Dr. Julia Roberts, Director of Innovate Kentucky and Mahurin Professor and Chair of Gifted Studies. “It is truly the incubator for entrepreneurialism.”

People attend the Innoplexx grand opening.
A ribbon cutting for Innoplexx was held Dec. 4 at WKU’s Center for Research and Development. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Innoplexx is part of a statewide initiative to increase student innovation, Innovate Kentucky, funded through a grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation.

WKU is committed to partnering with the community to stimulate innovation in economic development in the region, both using and developing the talents of our students. “We are doing so many things that make us the intellectual heartbeat of Kentucky,” Dr. Ransdell said. “We are anxious to get our students engaged and see what is possible and what they can create.”

Episode 13: Jacob Gable, Software Developer

Jacob Gable, software developerJacob Gable graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2005 with a B.S. in Computer Science. Now he’s a senior software developer for Sprout Social in Chicago. Innovate Kentucky connected with Jacob through an outreach effort for its career database, and Jacob volunteered to share his experience and expertise for an episode of the Innovation Update.

So on this episode of the Innovation Update, Josh talks with Jacob about where his passion for computer science began and how it developed during his time in school. The duo also discuss the rewarding aspects of computer science.

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5 Reasons to Use Digital Textbooks

Sony e-readerFrom Edudemic: “… there are a number of compelling reasons to make the shift to digital sooner rather than later. We’re sure you can come up with a million other reasons on your own, but here are the ones that really get us excited for a major shift to digital.”

See the five reasons for switching to digital textbooks by clicking here.

STEM Careers: Software Programmer

Colin Klein

Colin Klein, software programmer

Senior Consultant for Decision Source, Inc. in Nashville, TN

Graduate of Western Kentucky University

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In layman’s terms, I’m just a problem solver.

How did you become interested in technology, specifically software development?

I believe I’ve always had an interest in technology, video games, gadgets, etc., but I think the major event in my life that lead to my current profession was when my mom bought our household our first personal computer when I was in middle school. At this point in time, it wasn’t particularly common to have a computer in your home and I was one of the first of my friends to have the privilege. I’d have friends over to play games on it and when they’d leave I’d play around with the settings and administration tools in Windows 95, customizing things and learning how to maintain the system using stuff like hard drive de-fraggers and registry cleaners. I tinkered with that computer the way I imagine car aficionados tinker with a muscle car’s engine.

Around a year or so later, we got the thing connected to the internet on the pre-installed 28.8kbps, dial-up modem and I spent a sizable portion of my free time during high school goofing off on the internet. I’d experiment with different search engines as they came out (there wasn’t always a Google). I’d make terrible 90s websites with big ugly graphics and animated gifs. I even ran an online radio station where I’d take requests and broadcast live prank phone calls to classmates. Eventually, I joined a program at my high school where we designed and created websites for the school.

When I started college, I originally planned on majoring in physics. I had some grandiose dreams of being a theoretical physicist or a rocket scientist so I took the hardest physics classes I could jump into as a freshman. This backfired as it burned me out on the subject too quickly and by my second semester, I found I was enjoying the silly programs I was writing for my Intro to Computer Science class more than the physics work so I switched majors and I’ve never looked back. (That’s not necessarily true. I still read physics books and keep up with the latest physics discoveries and sometimes wonder “what if?” I just like the phrase “I’ve never looked back.”)

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Everyday life is becoming more and more reliant on technology. Because of this, a basic understanding of technology is becoming crucial to perform even the most common of tasks.

Tell us about your job and what it is you do for Decision Source, Inc.

In layman’s terms, I’m just a problem solver. We consult with our clients and learn everything we can about their business and what they need to do from day to day. We then look for ways we can use existing technology or write custom software to make their daily lives more streamlined and productive.

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Why is it important to the future of this country to get more students interested in technology?

Everyday life is becoming more and more reliant on technology. Because of this, a basic understanding of technology is becoming crucial to perform even the most common of tasks. At this point, the thought of even trying to find a job without basic internet search skills seems like an impossible task.

As the world becomes more globalized and connected, more and more low-skilled jobs will move out of this country and technology-related jobs will become increasingly important to our economy.

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What is the professional goal of a senior consultant like yourself?

I believe professional goals are a very personal thing, and as such, they are unique to everyone. I would say, for someone in my general position, one might aspire to run their own consulting company or perhaps write some application or website with popular appeal (an Angry Birds or Facebook for example) that could make them a fortune. I personally just want a profession that evolves with the world around me and gives me new challenges to solve every day. I’ve already got that now, so I suppose my goal is to keep that up for as long as I can.

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What do you think would help get students more interested in software development at a younger age?

As far as software development goes, I think exposure is key. Until I started college, I never really had access to any formal education on programming. Even the program I was in when I was in high school where I learned a little about web development – most of what I learned was self-taught and researched. I think we need to add more technology to the curriculum. Technology in the classroom seems to be a big movement right now. I’d like to seem more education about how that technology works.

There are also programs like MIT’s Scratch visual programming language and toys like the Lego Mindstorms that help expose children to programming concepts in a way that is fun and accessible. Tools like these could be brought into the classroom to show children some of the fun applications of software development.