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ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: JENNIFER RILEY, C/O 1991

MSMS Connects recently caught up with alumna Jennifer Riley, who graduated from MSMS in 1991.

1. Why did you choose MSMS? 

MSMS was just such an awesome opportunity to expand upon my learning experiences. I had a significant interest in science and how it explained so many observable phenomena in the world. I believed MSMS would allow me to explore this interest, and it did. The school provided course offerings that went so far beyond the basics or what was available at my home high school at the time. I knew that it would provide me with a stronger foundation for college and my future career.   

2. How would you describe your time at MSMS? 

It was one of the best times of my life. It’s fairly straightforward that as a student you will gain a lot academically, but the benefits of learning from and engaging with others – socially and culturally – is invaluable. Some of my very best, life-long friendships were cultivated at MSMS. It was fun. It was challenging. It was a time to learn about myself. It was a huge growth opportunity and a time to shape my potential.  

3. How did MSMS prepare you for your future academic endeavors?

MSMS allowed me to explore areas of science and research that led me to my major and then beyond to graduate school. I was torn between biology and chemistry, but also driven by the idea that I wanted to make things. Studying and learning from Dr. Davidson (Biology) and Dr. MacNeil (Chemistry) helped me discover that I wanted to be scientist that engineered solutions.  I majored in Chemical Engineering and participated in multiple co-op opportunities. One of these opportunities provided an opportunity to conduct research – research much like some of the studies I’d done at MSMS. This motivated me to go to graduate school. I switched to Industrial Engineering, conducted research with a young professor and then started on my path to applying science and math to the study of human information processing and decision making. It was a path with some turns along the way, but ultimately my MSMS days successfully prepared me for and shaped my academic endeavors.  

4. After attending MSMS, what college/university did you attend? What did you get your degree(s) in? 

Mississippi State University. BS in Chemical Engineering (1996); MS (1998) and PhD in Industrial Engineering (2001) 

5. What inspired you to  pursue engineering? 

My chemistry classes at MSMS influenced my selection of Chemical Engineering. Working in the chemistry lab was where I learned about that discipline of engineering and how it applied to solutions in varied areas from food science, to materials science, to cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.  

6. What is your official job title? Can you tell me a little bit about your responsibilities in this position?  

I am currently the Division Head of Performance Augmentation for Design Interactive, Inc. I am responsible for managing a research and development division aimed at providing innovative technological solutions that help people learn faster, retain knowledge and skills longer, and perform better in challenging conditions. We develop tools for the military and for civilian applications, leveraging advances in augmented, virtual, and mixed reality, bio-signature analytics, machine learning, and human factors engineering. Our training technologies often focus on developing cognitive and decision-making skills. The operational technologies are designed to augment performance through personalized, auto-adaptive supports. Our performance assessment techniques provide quantitative and qualitative data to validate the effectiveness of our solutions. 

7. Would you recommend attending MSMS?  

Definitely! I think it is a great place to learn more about yourself. We often don’t realize that our perceptions can be severely limited by our experiences. MSMS broadens that experience. It provides learning, social, and cultural exchanges that widen our field-of-view on our potential and possibilities. At MSMS, I believe you learn a lot about your strengths and your opportunities for growth and improvement very quickly. You target in on your interests and goals for a major and a career. And, MSMS provides an education on par with the best schools in our country. I recommended it to my daughter, who is a rising senior, and I’d recommend it to anyone!