This week on Tech Speak, hear from five remarkable women in science at S&T, each with their own unique perspective and a shared passion for homeland security. The women share advice, their career paths, and anecdotes about their experience in making our nation safer. Their expertise spans food defense, resources for bomb squads, combatting child exploitation, the future of quantum, and preparing for a radiological or nuclear event. We are proud to have Jessica Cox, Ann Cox, Byung Hee Kim, Patty Wolfhope, and Orly Amir on our team and honored to highlight them for Women’s History Month!
- Podcast: A Very Nasty Insecticide You Don't Want in Your Food (Jessica Cox)
- Podcast: The Bomb Squad Is Not an Afterthought (Byung Hee Kim)
- Minisode: Understanding What Responders Need (S&T’s Kimberli Jones-Holt)
- Minisode: One Step Ahead of the Bad Guys (S&T’s Alice Hong)
- Feature Article: Empowering Bomb Squads with DIY Innovations (Byung Hee Kim)
- National Urban Security Technology Laboratory
- S&T Technology Centers (Ann Cox, Patty Wolfhope)
- Chemical Security Analysis Center (Jessica Cox)
- Response and Defeat Operations Support (Byung Hee Kim)
- Recorded on: Multiple Dates
Guests: Orly Amir, Program Manager for Radiological/Nuclear Response and Recovery, National Urban Security Technology Laboratory; Ann Cox, Technical Lead and Subject Matter Expert in Cybersecurity and Quantum Information Science, Technology Centers; Jessica Cox, Program Manager, Chemical Threat and Chemical Hazard Characterization, Chemical Security Analysis Center; Byung Hee Kim, Program Manager for Response and Defeat Operations Support; and Patty Wolfhope, Subject Matter Expert, Digital Forensic Systems, Technology Centers
[00:00:00] Dave: Welcome to Tech Speak, a mini episode of the Technologically Speaking podcast. In honor of Women's History Month, this episode brings you the voices and stories of S&T’s women. If you're a fan of our podcast, some may sound familiar to you. They offer advice and share their career paths and perspectives on science and homeland security. First, we'll hear from Jessica Cox of our Chemical Security Analysis Center, one of S&T's five national labs. Here's what she had to say back in season one to a new generation of girls interested in pursuing science.
[00:00:27] Jessica Cox: There's always advice for girls in science. Do it. That's the number one. So I, you know, when I very first came out, I am not quite as old that there wasn't, any girls in science, but there were very few. And so, my first few jobs, I had all male colleagues, and that was not an easy battle, right. Being in there with the good old boys and trying to find your way through and getting the respect that you kind of deserve, but it's worth it. Because science needs men's views on things and women’s views on things. And when we all work together, then great things happen. And so, I would just say, you know, it's still not equal, but there are many more women in this field now than there have been in the past. And they're very successful. And, so you can do anything you want as long as you're passionate and you want to go for it. So, I think that's my advice, for the women, just do it. If you're passionate about it, don't let all the things that you hear about how hard it will be, and, how much trouble it may be to get into leadership ranks through all those men that sit there now, or whatever, those things that people are telling you. If you're passionate about it, there's nothing to stop you from going as far as you want.
[00:01:44] Dave: Just do it. Where have I heard that before? Seems like an excellent mantra. Next, we'll hear from Ann Cox, an expert in cybersecurity and quantum information science in S&T’s Technology Centers. Ann's experience is a perfect example of life having other plans. Ann's story is inspiring and a reminder that life isn't always a linear path.
[00:02:01] Ann Cox: So, I guess my claim to fame that is that I actually did the PhD after I had six children. Nobody knows what kind of things are gonna happen to them in life. It turned out that, my husband had significant illness throughout our marriage, he passed away about four years ago, and so I needed to become the breadwinner. And my decision was that if I had to leave my children and go to work full-time, which had not been my plan. I was very traditional and had planned on being a stay-at-home mom. But, I said, okay, if I'm going to work, I'm gonna have a career and have sufficient income that I can actually support the family. And so, my husband and I kind of, traded places where he was dad at home and had more of the nurturing and caring responsibilities for our children. and I ended up with this career, which I really didn't plan on, but, it's been a good ride.
[00:03:03] Dave: You'll hear more from Ann and this next S&T expert, Patty Wolfhope in season two of the podcast. Patty, who is also in our Tech Centers, pursued her passion to protect children around the globe by simply asking how she could help.
[00:03:15] Patty Wolfhope: I was sitting at a conference out at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST, and a H S I, Homeland Security Investigations agent got up and spoke about this problem, and that was over 10 years ago. And after he spoke, I went and spoke with him and asked, what can we do to help you? This is crazy. What he had spoke about just shattered my brain. It made me look around and wonder, Ooh, this is deep and dark. what can S&T do? That's really what got me involved in this work, and I, I've never looked back. being an engineer, I never thought I'd be doing what I'm doing today. And so being, just being a part of helping to save kids around the world is the legacy that I would like to leave.
[00:04:11] Dave: Without a doubt, a noble and necessary legacy. Going back to season one, we talked to Byung Hee Kim of our Response and Defeat Operations Support program. She shared inspiring stories of how innovations for and from bomb squads can come from anywhere, including from a father daughter team.
[00:04:23] Byung Hee Kim: Oh, yes. Oh, what a great team! Arlin is the bomb squad commander at San Francisco and, his daughter, Hanna such a sweet girl. I had a chance to meet her at the bomb squad commanders conference. And, so the father and daughter team decided that they're going to build a tool that was much needed in the community, which is the dual battery tester. And so basically you use this tester to see how much voltage you have in your battery. And, Arlin thought of the idea, but he didn't know, how to draw the CADs and stuff like that and so, Hanna did it. And with both their minds together, they built this really portable, really usable and effective battery tester. And, it was a hit during the bomb squad commanders conference. A lot of commanders came by looking at that particular tool and asking to build some of those. So, of course, those are published. So, any bomb tech can go into the law enforcement enterprise portal and get directions on how to build one of those. She's,13 and a yeah, very young, she's one of the first, for many.
[00:05:35] Dave: Hanna joins many historical women who were the first to blaze trails, and like Orly Amir of S&T’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory, and an upcoming season two guest, perhaps she isn't necessarily on a traditional path to a career in science. Orly shares how she happened upon her career in radiological and nuclear response and recovery.
[00:05:54] Orly: I'm actually an urban planner by training. I worked on Capitol Hill and, I worked for a Congressman that, that's district in New Jersey had several hundred-year floods in, in, very short order. And so, I decided to leave kind of policy making and go to planning school, with the idea that good planning can help prevent emergencies and environmental disasters. And when I got to planning school, I focused on transportation and infrastructure planning. I worked on a FEMA grant called the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program, or R C P G P. And it was there that I started getting to know a little bit more about radiological and nuclear planning, developing some regional plans for nuclear detonation response. And with that, I, I met NUSTL and moved over to DHS and, and the rest is history here.
[00:06:45] Dave: We're proud that each of these women is shaping S&T’s history and the story of our future. Their accomplishments and their profound impact are paving the way for women that continue to make a difference in all areas of science and security. This has been Tech Speak. Learn a lot more about these women and their R&D contributions on S&T’s website, and share your own advice and stories with us on social media at DHS SciTech. D H S, S C I T E C H. Bye.