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STEM Symposium | March 17, 2016

Computer Science & Engineering

Tam Vu | Assistant Professor, Mobile and Networked Systems, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Colorado Denver

Tam Vu shared his journey from an unsuccessful elementary school student in Vietnam to assistant professor at CU Denver that he is today. His education included winning a National Olympiad Prize for Pascal Programming that allowed him admission to a top college. Later he was able to obtain a scholarship for his PhD in America.

His work now includes working with a team to create inventions such as software that helps a phone detect if someone is attempting to text and drive or user identity rings that people can wear that serve as login credentials instead of user names and passwords on mobile devices.

He encouraged students to find something they like to do, and then do something. "Do what you like, and it will pay off."


Yiqun Shellman | Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver

Yiqun Shellman, mother of Overland student Melody Shellman, shared her journey as a microbiology student in China who wanted nothing more than to get far away from her parents. She studied hard and was able to work on her PhD in the United States.  She discussed her struggle of mastering the subject matter while learning English.

At the CU Denver School of Medicine she is now part of a team that does stem cell research and is excited to try solving puzzles that no one else can.

She advised the audience to have persistence and grit, to learn constantly, to think critically, and to excel at communication and math.


Database Engineering

Debra Parcheta | CEO, Blue Marble Enterprises, Inc.

Debra Parcheta is a database engineer who geared her presentation toward the sociology students in the audience. She discussed how data is collected and used to determine where viruses originate and how they are spread throughout the human population.

Her interest in data originated from a job she had in the retail industry in New York City. She told her employer how to better supply the retailers with the garments they needed. By placing identification tags on clothing, they could examine what sizes were selling and in what locations. No one wanted to listen to her suggestions for improving their process, but her interest in data was piqued.

Debra's day-to-day work involves customizing databases for users who need a way to collect, organize, and view their data. She advises students who are interested in database engineering to take computer science and math classes.


Electrical Engineering

Kathleen Gegner | Grad student, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Kathleen Gegner, daughter of Mary Jo Lorenz at Prairie, talked about her journey to STEM, her journey in STEM, and offered some advice to future engineers. As a grad student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, she is passionate about making the electrical grid cleaner. She lives by her mother's advice to "always leave a place better than you found it." She hopes that by producing electricity cleanly she can help to change the world.

She encouraged future engineers to take as many AP classes as they can, to participate in extracurricular activities, and to read a lot. If they study engineering and later decide on a different career path, she assured them that the skills of problem solving are transferrable. Plus, they will have many opportunities for scholarships and internships.

Her advice was simple:  be your best, be kind, and be brave.


Spacecraft Systems Engineering

Amber Gell | Spacecraft Systems Engineer, Lockheed Martin

Amber Gell spoke enthusiastically about her love of space and the joy she experiences when she goes to work every day. Her passion for space has been focused on NASA's Orion Spacecraft. She discussed the engineering involved in creating a usable workspace for the astronauts inside the rocket and the troubleshooting and testing procedures needed.

She asked students, "What are you excited about when you wake up in the morning?" Their journey through life won't be exactly what they expect, but they should make the best of things and see where they can add value. She is excited that for this generation to possibly be the first to visit Mars.  "What role will you play in that event?" she asked them. Would they be the astronauts walking on Mars, the engineers who designed the rocket, the designers who crafted the space suits, the operators at Mission Control, or the viewers watching it on TV wishing they had the courage to be a bigger part of it?

She finished with a metaphor that earth is their spaceship and they are the crew — what would they do to make it a better place?

Tam Vu

Yiqun Shellman

Debra Parcheta
Database Engineering

Kathleen Gegner
Electrical Engineering

Amber Gell
Spacecraft Systems

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