Annica Wayman, PhD: (M6)

Graduated with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland Baltimore County as well as MS and PhD degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. In graduate school, her doctoral work focused on a family of molecules called selectins that mediate the adhesion of white blood cells to vascular surfaces, such as the blood vessel wall, under fluid flow.

Well Groomed

Motivation is but one trait attributed to Dr. Annica Wayman’s success. A graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Wayman received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2006. For her, perseverance, a commitment to excellence and especially the hands-on guidance of her parents were all valuable assets that essentially groomed her for her present role as AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“My parents stressed doing well in school,” she says. “Going to college was not an option – we were told that we’re going to go.” As a member of the gifted program in her high school, Dr. Wayman thought early on that she would focus on a career in law after a strong affinity for her school’s mock trials piqued her interest. However, the discovery that she liked math and the physical sciences set her on an entirely different academic path after a conversation with her mother left Dr. Wayman to consider pursuing an engineering track. Her participation in a shadowing program as well as some summer programs served to cement that commitment to engineering.

Dr. Wayman credits her father, a high school math teacher, with helping her to get a better understanding of the challenges she would face as a young, African American woman in an engineering program. Nevertheless, he offered plenty of support, helping her to be better prepared for the SAT’s, even giving her sample problems and practice tests. For Wayman, the opportunity to study at UMBC with so many other highly intelligent African American men and women who were also committed to pursuing math and science was encouraging, if not a little intimidating. But she soon found that one of the advantages of UMBC’s Summer Bridge Program was that it bonded the students, diminishing competitiveness while building a sense of community.

The transition into the engineering program was not without its hiccups. “One of my first engineering classes was Static, and on the very first exam, I received an F. I was crushed and devastated. I didn’t know how I was going to overcome it. I was just determined that I was going to work really hard from that point on and I completed the course with an A.”

Dr. Wayman insists that her participation in the Meyeroff program for scholars helped to alleviate some of her apprehensions about pursuing a degree in engineering. As well, the small, close-knit network of Meyerhoff students helped provide the sort of academic camaraderie that perpetuated mutual success. “They encouraged you to study in groups and made sure that you studied with the smartest people in the class. If we had to be up to the late hours of the morning studying, we would do it and we would do it together.” Such commitment was a valuable example of the type of perseverance she would need in order to achieve her Ph.D., particularly during the harder times when she questioned whether the goal was really worth the work. Not just in achieving her Ph.D., but also in finally being able to get her work published in a high-impact journal after years of working toward that goal.

Dr. Wayman’s advice to other students in the sciences: “Expose yourself to a variety of areas, not just science and engineering. There are a lot of other fields for which you may be better suited. Leverage your science and engineering background. Some other career opportunities are policy or media – scientific and technical writing. There are some Meyerhoffs who have engineering degrees but went on to medical school to become a doctor. Others are lawyers who do patent law or use their technical backgrounds in marketing or finance.” Above all, she encourages students to stay focused and determined. Keep an open mind and excel at whatever challenges may present themselves.

Best Advice

Don't Quit!

My Mentors and Why

I don’t necessarily have formal mentors but I have a lot of informal mentors people that I’ve developed relationships with over the years and so I have a ton of them and I go to them depending what I need advice on. If it is for a specific technical area, I might go to a mentor in that specialty. If it is a general career advice question, I might go to someone else. And it’s not just science and engineering mentors, they could be in other fields as well.

Quotes I Live By

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

Invent One Thing

An effective needleless system for drug delivery.

Book I'm reading

Right now I am trying to get up to speed with my present job and the work that I am doing now on International Development. The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier, and it basically talks about the challenges among the developing countries, that there is a subset of countries that had very little economic and governance advancement and looking at why is that and how to help them and get them to move beyond their current state.

More about : Annica Wayman, PhD: (M6)

After receiving her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech, Annica worked at Becton, Dickinson & Co. (BD), a leading global medical technology company that manufactures and sells medical devices, instrument systems and reagents. At BD, she served in various R&D engineering roles ranging from advanced technology development to new product development for anesthesia-related procedures. In addition to her primary engineering role, Annica was part of BD’s Global Health team where she explored ways to improve biosafety in tuberculosis (TB) laboratories in developing countries to aid with the safe adoption of advanced TB diagnostic methods there. Currently, Annica is a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Office of Science and Technology at the U.S. Agency for International Development where she helps to pioneer scientific, technological, and innovative approaches to traditional international development challenges. Outside of work, Annica enjoys spending time with her husband, also a mechanical engineer, and two sons.

Kenneth D. Gibbs, Jr., PhD: (M13)

Graduated with his PhD in immunology May 2010 from Stanford University, where his research focused on the mechanisms that regulate blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells in normal blood development and leukemia. He has continued his research as a postdoctoral fellow in Garry Nolan’s research group. Currently Dr. Gibbs will be working with the National Science Foundation [...]

Nwokedi C. Idika, PhD: (M13)

Nwokedi C. Idika, PhD: (M13) Graduated with his Ph.D. in computer science from Purdue University in 2010 at the age of 26 years old. Nwokedi became the first African-American to attain a Ph.D. in computer science from Purdue University. He attained his B.S. in Computer Science in 2005 from UMBC. He is currently a Technical [...]

Raj A. Stewart, PhD: (M9)

Graduated with his PhD in neuroscience from Brandeis University in 2008; his doctoral thesis used multidisciplinary approaches to study compensation strategies used by older adults when listening to degraded speech signals. Dr. Stewart obtained dual degrees in Biochemistry and Philosophy from UMBC and conducted research at Lancaster University (Lancashire, England). My mentors and parents were [...]

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