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May 4, 2020

A Woman in STEM Looks Back on Her Adelphi Journey

Jennefer Maldonado ’20 presenting research she conducted as an intern at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Jennefer Maldonado is finishing her final semester at Adelphi, completing work on her double major in mathematics and computer science. She is also part of the first group of students enrolled in Adelphi’s minor in scientific computing, a groundbreaking program launched this fall in partnership with Brookhaven National Laboratory [BNL]. She’s conducted three research projects during her undergraduate career, presenting her work at prestigious mathematics and computer science conferences as well as the Adelphi University Research and Creative Works Conference.

In addition to being a scholar and researcher, Maldonado has worked as a teaching assistant and tutor to students from elementary school through college. Although she is disappointed by missing out on the usual senior-class events and spring graduation celebration, when classes moved online due the coronavirus pandemic, she quickly posted on her social media that she was available to coach and tutor struggling students online.

Why did you choose to attend Adelphi?

I didn’t know what I should expect from going to college because most of my family did not attend college. At an Adelphi Accepted Student Day, I felt incredibly welcomed. I met professors in the math and computer science department who expressed how tight the community is and showed how interested they were in having me as a student. I knew that I would be supported throughout my undergraduate career. By the time I entered Adelphi, all the professors knew me by name and welcomed me with open arms into the community.

You started at Adelphi as a computer science major? How did you decide to double major?

My interest in computer science developed in high school after taking the AP computer science class. My interest in mathematics developed after taking required courses for the computer science major. I took two classes taught by Dr. Petrilli [Salvatore Petrilli, ’05, EdD, associate professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science]. He made both of these classes incredibly challenging and turned math problems into fun yet complex puzzles, which convinced me to add the second major. I have never second-guessed this. It directed me to find my passion and what I really want to do with the rest of my life.

Is there another influential professor?

My mentor, Dr. Stemkoski [Lee J. Stemkoski, PhD, professor of mathematics and computer science], has been my guiding force in studying game theory, my senior research topic.

How did you decide to minor in scientific computing?

I took an elective for my computer science major that made me realize that scientific computing was a perfect way to combine both of my interests into a single discipline. The minor did not exist at this time, but it was created in partnership with Brookhaven National Laboratory. A scientist from the lab taught the course and opened my eyes to internships and jobs that need my skill set.

Did you intern at Brookhaven National Laboratory?

I interned at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory, a 10-week internship where I worked alongside engineers at the National Synchrotron Light Source II, a nearly billion-dollar project funded by the Department of Energy. I was able to successfully write code that protected important equipment at this facility and is still in use today. My code will be added to more equipment in the upcoming months.

As a woman in STEM, are you working to get more women and girls interested in these fields?

Yes. Last semester, we held the Women in Science and Computing Conference, which aimed to educate women about opportunities in STEM and empower them to get into these fields.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your final semester and future plans?

I’m left with a sense that the year is unfinished. I am staying connected by video chatting with friends and keeping in touch with my professors, but I definitely miss being on campus.

I had planned to return to BNL this summer, but this is now uncertain. For grad school, I have been attending accepted students’ days through Zoom and speaking to university representatives via emails.

I continue to host tutoring sessions in math and computer science through Adelphi’s Learning Center [now operating exclusively online]. I also posted my email on social media, offering to help any students from grade school up with their math or computer science questions.


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Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

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