Friday May 28th

Mentors : Dr. Gladys West

I was chosen as 1 of 2 students

  • Today, I was chosen as 1 of 2 students to say words of Congratulations to Dr. Gladys West, for her NCWIT Pioneer in Tech Award.
  • I kid you not, as I was listening to Dr. West talk about her life and accomplishments, I had to wipe a tear away. She is SO INSPIRING, and humble, and persistent. I was so honoured to get to speak with her today. This memory will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Who is Dr. Gladys West?

  • Her Mathematical models are integral to the development of GPS. You can read more about her here.
  • Dr. Lisa Cook spoke before Dr. Gladys West was interviewed, and she said “sometimes remarkable talent is hidden; it isn’t celebrated”. She spoke about patents and invention, which is something that has been on my mind before my first step into the United States. It’s one of my dreams as an immigrant. It’s particularly difficult for persons of my particular demographic to not just file, and be aware of the workings of the process, but to have their own work acknowledged. A good movie that talks about some of these systemic barriers is the movie “Joy”. The movie Straight Outta Compton, which years ago I swore I’d never watch, also talks about the complications of some of these traditionally underrepresented communities being acknowledged for their work and their intellectual property. As it turns out, I ended up watching the film several times this year because the lack of acknowledgement for one’s ideas and the diminishing of one’s contributions is a topic that has resonated so deeply with me on multiple levels, as well as the knowledge or ability to advocate for visibility of one’s work. In fact, my first semester, I wrote a paper (that was rejected) on this very topic (patents and IP), as it relates to AI systems and bias. But at the time, I didn’t have any experience or much support on how to write these kinds of papers. So I was thrilled to hear Dr. Lisa Cook talk about this.
  • For many years, Dr. Gladys West thought her work was unremarkable, even though she has been incredibly hardworking, and broke so many barriers. Her work was rediscovered and celebrated, and she was selected by BBC as one of the 100 Women of 2018. For many years, she was a hidden figure, but her remarkable and pioneering work has fortunately been celebrated all over the world. Her contributions are invaluable.

What’s next?

  • I have work to do for research, so I’m probably going to do that later this evening, and then work on my MSR work this weekend, too.
  • But for now, I just feel really grateful, and happy. Part of my congratulations and a bit about me, as I was introduced to Dr. Gladys as one of two special persons that she had to meet, was to mention that a mathematician who works in using satellite remote sensing at NASA is one who encouraged me to grad school. Even when I was being offered opportunities to go to work in tech, he said adamantly, “you should still get your degree and go to grad school”, and I am super thankful for that. Who could have imagined all of these opportunities and experiences along the way? I could have never; not beyond my wildest dreams. Dr. Gladys West is a person who viscerally expresses her gratitude and emotions, and it was so unexpected to see her so impacted by the words of congratulations. I’m so thankful!

But for now, that’s about it

Written on May 28, 2021