STEM Woman Leader of the Day- Amy Alving (SAIC)
Submitted by Tommy Cornelis on September 25, 2012
Amy Alving, Ph.D., is the chief technology officer and senior vice president at SAIC. Alving joined SAIC in 2005 as the CTO for the Engineering, Training and Logistics Group, and later served as the corporate chief scientist. Prior to joining SAIC, Alving served as the director of the Special Projects Office at DARPA; was a White House Fellow (1997-98) serving at the DOC; and was an associate professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Minnesota. Alving graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in mechanical engineering and from Princeton University with a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our nation?
STEM is important from an economic standpoint because technology powers innovation, and innovation drives a strong economy. More fundamentally, STEM education and workforce are important to mankind because technology improves lives. From refrigeration that enables a safe food supply, to medical cures for life-threatening disease, to airplanes that connect the most distant lands, human-created technologies have made the world better and safer. They’re the result of the hard work of generations of people educated in science, technology, engineering and math, and the innovations that will create our future will rely on the same.
What about STEM gives you passion?
STEM fields are exciting because they allow us to understand – and change – the world. Science is about understanding how the world works at the most basic level: how stars are made, what creates volcanoes, how cells replicate, what drives electron behavior. Each answer is fascinating in its own right, like a mystery that humans have learned to solve. The more we learn, the more we’re able to understand other aspects of nature – and to predict the way the world behaves. From there, it’s a short leap to technological innovation, applying the underlying laws of nature to make the world a better place. I love all facets of that cycle, from expanding our basic understanding of the physical world to addressing some of the most important problems faced by society.
What traits do senior leaders need to effectively support and advance STEM today?
In the workplace, our leaders need to ensure that STEM careers are attractive by offering robust pathways for career advancement in technical fields. They also need to recognize the special needs of technical professionals, for instance by offering relevant opportunities to maintain currency and growth in fast-changing technical fields. In the community, they need to help spread the word about what STEM careers can offer. And in the political arena, they can help maintain support for world-class educational programs.
Of what one initiative you are most proud?
I’m very proud of SAIC’s K-12 STEM program, with its focus on empowering our employees to engage in their communities. SAIC started the program a few years ago, and the response of our colleagues has been tremendous. They volunteer in support of hundreds of STEM events and activities in communities around the country. Their participation breathes life to the vision underlying SAIC’s program, “exponential inspiration”. SAIC employees volunteer their time and knowledge in order to get kids excited about STEM, and these kids get their friends interested as well. At the same time SAIC employees also draw in their colleagues, so the “exponential” growth happens on both sides. The more people we can get involved in generating interest in STEM, the more likely we are to be successful.