STEM & GEMS, Part I: Air Liquide’s Victoria Rockwell makes the most of math in her career

FINAL-Vickie_Rockwell_smallIn anticipation of our upcoming GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) event on Feb. 8, we interviewed several women who have pursued careers in math and science. This week we’re featuring Victoria Rockwell, Director of Investor Development at Air Liquide.

HMNS: How old were you when you first became interested in science, technology, engineering, and/or math (STEM)?
Rockwell: I was in the 4th grade and read a book on the stars. It showed pictures of the constellations. I lived in the country and when I looked up to the sky at night, the constellations were there – just like in the book!

HMNS: Was there a specific person or event that inspired you when you were younger?
Rockwell: My grandparents were immigrants from Europe and valued learning. “Learn all that you can — no one can ever take that away from you.” “Be whatever you want to be. Don’t let people tell you that you cannot.” These were the words of encouragement that I received. My role model was my mother who was a Rosie-the-Riveter-type during World War II. All her life she tried new things and careers and kept looking forward — never looking back.

HMNS: What was your favorite science project when you were in school?
Rockwell: Science projects, not so much … but I love math. I love solving mysteries, and to me, a math problem is solving a mystery. Who is X? Why does Y change things? How are they related? Did Z kill Q?

HMNS: What is your current job? How does this relate to science, technology, engineering, and/or math?
Rockwell: My current job is the Director of Investment Development at Air Liquide. There is still a lot of math involved, but we take an idea and create a new thing — a plant. It starts with an idea, an open field, engineers designing and making drawings, construction crews with hard hats and heavy equipment, digging in the dirt … and then building up, piping and tying all the pieces together. Finally the engineers start it all up — pushing the buttons to make the new products.

HMNS: What’s the best part of your job?
Rockwell: Working with a lot of smart, creative and interesting people.

HMNS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Rockwell: I am active in engineering professional societies. As part of the work I do there, I meet with students, parents, community members, university faculty, and other engineers to tell them about the importance of engineering and science in our lives. As part of my involvement in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), I was invited to the White House three times to participate in events that promoted women and the economy. I met Mrs. Obama, the president’s science adviser, and even the President on my last visit.

HMNS: What advice would you give to girls interested in pursuing a STEM career?
Rockwell: GO FOR IT! Don’t let anyone tell you it is not for you. If you have the interest, explore it. If you stumble the first time, try again. Sometimes you are not ready to learn the first time around.

HMNS: Why do you think it’s important for girls to have access to an event like GEMS?
Rockwell: To give them the support, options and opportunities. Engineering, math and science are fun. There are mysteries to solve, things to explore that lead to new discoveries, and ways to make the world a better place.

Know a girl who’s interested in math and science? Come to GEMS (Girls Exploring Math & Science) on Sat., Feb. 8 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The Museum will be filled with hands-on science and math for everyone to experience. Local professionals will be at the Museum to answer questions about their careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

The event is free with paid admission to the Museum. Click here for $7 admission to all permanent exhibit halls on Sat., Feb. 8.

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