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Rita B. Leahy Career Series

Rita B Leahy Lectures logo

During 2019-2020, the first annual Rita B. Leahy Career Series will bring current doctoral students and Maryland alumni together to meet and explore career opportunities for PhDs.  Two sessions will take place each semester. All will be held from 4:30-6:00 PM in the University Career Center & The President’s Promise, Room 3134 of the South Wing of Hornbake. The speakers' opening remarks will be simultaneously broadcast via Webex. The networking part of the program will not be on Webex so in person attendance is preferable.

 Fall 2019

Advocacy & Policy Careers for PhDs - Wednesday, 11/20/19, 4:30-6 pm
University Career Center & The President's Promise, Hornbake Building, South Wing, 3rd floor

Link to register to attend in person             
Link to register to attend via WebEx (live webinar featuring speakers remarks and Q&A)

photo Marisa Franco  Marisa Franco, PhD

Counseling Psychology, 2017
AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, Millennium Challenge Corporation

Marisa Franco is currently a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at Millennium Challenge Corporation, where she uses research to help inform projects that target global poverty. She also writes for Psychology Today, where she shares research on friendship and relationships. She is a former professor at Georgia State University.

   photo Katherine JohnsonKatherine (Jo) Johnson, PhD

Applied Environmental Anthropology, 2016
Social Scientist and Earthquake Risk Mitigation Policy Analyst, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 

Katherine J. Johnson (Jo) is a Social Scientist and Earthquake Risk Mitigation Policy Analyst at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Trained as an Applied Environmental Anthropologist, Jo is inspired to tackle complex problems which span the human, natural, and built environments. At NIST, Jo is involved with research that will help improve the performance of buildings to better mitigate natural hazards risks and accommodate the needs of inhabitants. A key accomplishment of this work was to highlight the social, economic, and community level concerns that are often overlooked in more traditional engineering efforts. Jo was a AAA Science and Technology Fellow from 2017-2019.

 photo Giordano Palloni Giordano Palloni, PhD

Economics, 2015
Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Giordano Palloni is a Research Fellow in the Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Maryland in 2015. His current research focuses on three related topics: exploring the determinants of maternal and early childhood health, evaluating health and education programs targeted towards children, and understanding how childhood experiences evolve into adult outcomes.

Link to register to attend in person             
Link to register to attend via WebEx (live webinar featuring speakers remarks)

Spring 2020 

Careers in Consulting for PhDs - Thursday, 3/5/20

There are many types of consulting opportunities for PhDs including large management consulting firms, working for a boutique consulting firm,  freelance work or starting your own consulting company.  This is especially true if your PhD and work experience is relevant to industries such as pharma/biotech, information technology, finance, and human resources.

Confirmed Panelists: Kenyatta Albeny, PhD, Comparative Literature & English, 2015, Consultant, Technical Writer, Savan Group

Careers for PhDs in the Federal Government
 Wednesday, 4/8/20

There are plenty of available options for those with PhDs in one of the many departments, agencies, and research labs of the federal government in and outside of Washington, DC. PhDs find opportunities at the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Dept of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and Department of Education, just to name a few of the many organizations under the federal umbrella. 

Confirmed Panelists: Neil Mansharamani, PhD, Communication, 2014, Writer, Department of Transportation


Past Sessions & Recordings

Careers for PhDs in Data Science10/1/19

Audio recording (MP3) of whole session.

Video recording of panelist remarks. COMING SOON. 

Vasilis Sotiris, PhD 

University of Maryland Alumnus, Applied Mathematics & Statistics, and Scientific Computation, 2011 and Director of Data Science at Cerebri AI

Vasilis Sotiris is an experienced data science leader with deep knowledge of statistical theory and methodology. He has extensive experience developing and deploying parametric and machine learning models to solve difficult problems in banking and risk management. After earning his PhD in Applied Statistics and Mathematics at Maryland in 2011, he worked at Capital One, KPMG, Barclays and Dun and Bradstreet. Six months ago, his career took a significant turn as he became the Director of Data Science at Cerebri AI- a successful tech start up with investment from M12, formerly Microsoft Ventures. Cerebri AI,  has created a product that is fundamentally changing how customer-facing sales and success professionals can analyze the customer journey.

Sherika Sylvester, PhD

University of Maryland, Postdoctoral Alumna, 2016-2017
Lead Data Scientist, Booz Allen Hamilton

Sherika Sylvester, is a lead data scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton, where she specializes in providing analytical support and data science solutions to problems in the life sciences and healthcare industries. She is also an active member of DataKind DC, a volunteer organization that partners with organizations to deliver impactful data products for social good. She studied systems neuroscience as a postdoc in Dr. Patrick Kanold’s lab at the University of Maryland, and as a physiology, biophysics, and systems biology graduate student in Dr. Emre Aksay’s lab at Weill Cornell Medicine.


About Dr. Rita B. Leahy

Photograph of Rita B. LeahyRita Leahy received her PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland in 1989. She is very grateful for her education at Maryland because it put her in touch with organizations and people who had a big impact on her life and career. Dr. Leahy feels it is very important for Ph.D. students to understand the different career options that are available to them and to build a professional network. In 2018, Dr. Leahy created a fund in the Graduate School to support the professional development of doctoral students and the creation of an annual speaker series featuring UMD alumni working in exciting and meaningful careers outside of the academy. 

Dr. Leahy’s own career path is a testimony to the power of networking - developing and maintaining connections with individuals.  These connections along with an unstoppable spirit of openness took her career in directions she never could have predicted. She believes that success in life is “finding something that you love to do and finding someone willing to pay you to do it.”  According to Dr. Leahy, success is where preparation and opportunity meet.