Outstanding Alumna: Dr. Claudia Pearce ’89

Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to this year’s Alumni Award winners. The UMBC Alumni Association proudly honors distinguished alumni and faculty for their accomplishments and dedication to UMBC. Today we’re talking with Dr. Claudia Pearce ‘89, computer science, about her career working with the NSA as Senior Computer Science Authority.

Claudia Pearce-Alumni_Award_Recipients-2014-2786

Name: Dr. Claudia Pearce ’89 M.S., ’94 Ph.D., computer science
Job Title: Senior Computer Science Authority, NSA
Award Category: Engineering and Information Technology

Q: Why did you choose to attend UMBC?

I chose UMBC because of the quality of the computer science program and its central Maryland location. I am currently NSA Technology Directorate’s Senior Executive Academic Liaison (SEAL) for UMBC.

Q: Is there a particular class or professor at UMBC who really inspired you?

Dr. Charles Nicholas, professor of computer science, was my Ph.D. advisor. Since that time, Dr. Nicholas has continued to be a source of knowledge and inspiration that has helped me maintain my technical roots. He was very flexible in my choice of dissertation topic in a novel, unproven area of Information Retrieval using character n-grams to deal with spelling errors, garbles, and multiple languages in text.

Q: Please tell us a little about the trajectory of your career and what you are working on now.

I was in research and development positions for the first two thirds of my career. During that time, I led research and development programs for information retrieval, knowledge representation, and storage, knowledge distillation, and knowledge access and sharing. For the last 10 years I have been responsible for the recruitment, retention, and continued technical health and growth of computer scientists at NSA.

Q: What has been the greatest success in your career? The greatest challenge?

My greatest success was my choice of dissertation topic in a novel, unproven area of information retrieval. This work became the foundation for a series of tools and advances in flexible garble-resistant text retrieval applications.

My greatest challenge was in standing up the office of my current position, NSA/CSS Senior Computer Science Authority. This was a new position and as such, I had to develop the mission and function, goals, and strategic plan for the organization as well as secure the funding and positions to support it. My significant accomplishments in this current position include: (1) the establishment of a computer science development program; (2) the creation and establishment of technical workforce metrics and roadmaps; (3) the creation of new computer science courseware, workshops, and other offerings for the agency’s technical community; and (4) spearheading a university outreach program for computer science.

Q: What are your proudest personal achievements?

I’m an avid quilt maker, and trumpet player. I’ve shown my quilts in juried international competitions and have competed nationally in trumpet competitions. I play trumpet in the Frederick Symphony Orchestra and the Montgomery Village Community Band.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the affiliate and do not reflect those of NSA/CSS.

Check out the other Alumni Award winners.

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