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Catherine Asaro

Novelist. Director/Founder, Chesapeake Math Program and Applied Mathematician

And - Math coach/teacher/advisor for many schools, working with gifted math students

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Believe in yourself! Let yourself enjoy the subject.

What do you do?

I write novels, most in the genre of hard science fiction, with an emphasis on the science; or near future thrillers that are close to present day but involve some sort of extension of current science or tech. Twenty-six+ novels published with major publishers.
As an applied mathematician, I solved math problems with applications to physics problems. More specifically, I looked at the quantum theory of how atoms and molecules interact (for example, my doctorate was on the formalism of multi-channel quantum scattering theory applied to diatomic molecules), and special topics in special relativity.
As the Director of Chesapeake Math Program, I help coordinate math programs/clubs for gifted students for schools in Maryland, Washington and Virginia. I coach students for math contests and teams, such as the Harvard-MIT math tournament, the USAMO, and Mathcounts.

Why did you choose this field?

Math/theoretical physics is a life-long interest. Math has always fascinated me, particular applying it to physical processes in the world. It's like working out the ultimate puzzle. I was discouraged from pursuing math/physics in school, but I kept coming back to it anyway. I liked it too much to turn away. I had several mentors along the way who encouraged me, including Alex Dalgarno, Eric Heller, and Kate Kirby. Additionally, I enjoy teaching a lot. For more information, please see this article from the Washingtonian.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Getting my doctorate in theoretical Chemical Physics from Harvard.

Why do you love working in STEM?

For me, solving equations and applying the results to physics processes is one of the most satisfying processes I've ever done. I enjoy both the process of solving the equation and then asking what the solution tells us about science.

Best advice for next generation?

Never believe anyone who suggests you can't do it. There are many naysayers out there, especially when it comes to women in STEM. It's hard not to internalize their negativity just as it's hard to see beyond the stereotypes of women in the media. Believe in yourself! Let yourself enjoy the subject. You don't have to be perfect at it, just willing to work and to follow through. Don't be afraid to seek out mentors, scholarships, and new educational opportunities.
Also, it's cool to be in a field people don't expect you to do.

Inspo quote / fun fact

I loved the Wonder Women movie, especially the No Man's Land scene when she walks across the battlefield. It was refreshing to see a movie with such a strong, likable, decent female hero with strong character and a sense of humor.