Alumni Stories

Alumni Profile: Alex Langevin - (MS Computational Mathematics & Statistics ’18)

Image of Alex Langevin

Alex Langevin entered the CMS graduate program at Duquesne after having worked for a number of years in the financial sector, seeking to transition to a more technical-oriented career track. Alex earned his M.S. in 2018, and is currently a PhD candidate in Systems & Information Engineering at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on deep learning, privacy, and synthetic data generation with various applications.

"Looking back at my time at Duquesne, it's difficult to overstate how well the Computational Math & Statistics program prepared me for my current PhD work, and how supportive the faculty were in getting me to that point. I joined the CMS program from a more non-traditional background, having originally gone to business school and worked in finance for a few years before catching the data science/machine learning bug. The program's equal emphasis on math, computer science & statistics was one of the major draws for me, with the first year structured to build your proficiency in any areas where you might be lacking. The program's relatively small size means that you develop a close relationship with your professors and classmates in a supportive environment. Whether you are looking to enter industry after graduation or opt for the academic route, the second year of the CMS program gives you the flexibility to pursue either avenue. In my second year, in addition to some of the standard course offerings in applied statistics and statistical/Bayesian computing with R - both of which I make extensive use of in my research - I was also able to take two semesters of real analysis which served as an excellent foundation for advanced study in machine learning and probability."

Alumni Profile: Shelly Lukon - (MS Computational Mathematics ’06)

Image of Shelly Lukon at her workstationShelly Lukon IT project manager at the University of Pittsburgh’s Computing Services Systems Development department, found a career that let her combine her love of math and computers. And when she decided to ramp up her skills with a second master’s degree, choosing Duquesne University and its Computational Mathematics program was a no-brainer.

“Duquesne was the only school in the area to offer the unique program that combines math, statistics and computer science,” said Lukon. “That appealed to me because of the work I was doing with computers as well as my natural love for mathematics. Duquesne had a great reputation as well.”

As a chemist at U.S. Steel, Lukon would often use computers to aid in her analysis and found her interest in the field growing. She completed a master’s degree in Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh and became a computer programmer.

“It was a natural transition for me,” said Lukon. “The next thing I did was become a systems analyst, analyzing code to find problems within the system,” said Lukon. From there, she segued to consultant, where she became firmly entrenched in project management. “I’ve worked for a financial company, some industrial manufacturing companies, and now I’m in an academic institution doing IT project management,” she said.

Lukon talked about the benefits of having a master’s degree in Computational Mathematics. “It definitely increases your salary potential and ability to tackle challenges,” she said. “The education made me a better problem solver and taught me to think on my feet. It’s a foundation that prepares you to handle a lot of different subject areas and jump right in and understand what’s going on.”

Among Lukon’s proudest accomplishments are teaching at the college level (she was a part-time instructor at Duquesne for two years) and being part of a team that was awarded a federal grant to continue the research she began with her master’s thesis.

Lukon is working alongside Dr. Patrick Juola, her advisor at Duquesne, to develop a machine-aided, back-of-the-book indexing system. “Typically, a human indexer scans through books to identify key words, and then arranges them in a hierarchy with page numbers and references at the back of the book,” said Lukon. “It’s a very time-consuming process. We’ve come up with algorithms that take the words and assign mathematical values that tell how related some words are to others. By using this mathematical information, you could actually come up with an index that would be fairly close to what a person would do by hand, but would save them a lot of time.” The group plans on marketing the product to publishing companies down the line.

“The research I continue to do with Dr. Juola has really opened up doors in my career,” said Lukon. “He has been a valuable person in my Duquesne experience, along with Dr. Jeffrey Jackson and Dr. John Kern.”

Alumni Profile: Meghan McCarthy - (MS Computational Mathematics ’02)

Attending Duquesne University has been a family tradition for Meghan McCarthy. “My grandfather went to Duquesne, as did my dad, my aunts, my uncles and my cousins,” she said. McCarthy not only followed in their footsteps to earn an undergraduate degree in education in 1994, she returned to Duquesne to pursue her master’s as well.

After graduating in December of ’94, McCarthy was a substitute teacher for a few years until landing a full-time position at Cornell High School in Coraopolis, PA. For the next four years, she taught math and coached the swim team, while hostessing at a local eatery during school breaks. One evening at the restaurant in March 2000, McCarthy bumped into Dr. Thomas Keagy, chairman of Duquesne’s Math and Computer Science Department. When Keagy asked how her teaching gig was going, McCarthy expressed her frustration.

“Dr. Keagy suggested that I look into the Computational Math master’s degree program, which was starting in the fall,” said McCarthy. “At first, I was hesitant to quit my job and go back to school for something that was brand new. But Dr. Keagy said the board members who helped to develop the curriculum were from Pittsburgh corporations and had advised what they needed in future graduates. That’s what sold me. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do afterwards, but I knew I’d be employable.”

McCarthy was one of the first four students to enroll in the Computational Mathematics program and graduated in 2002. After a few semesters teaching one-off courses at local universities, she spent five years at Management Science Associates as a business analyst. In September 2008, McCarthy landed her present job as a business analyst at PNC.

“Our group at PNC concentrates on building relationship throughout the organization,” said McCarthy. “For instance, we help to design training programs that will improve employee-customer encounters at the branch level. So we gather raw human resource data, clean it, and then analyze it using programs like SAS and JMP. Our goal is to implement employee training programs that help our branches earn the highest customer satisfaction scores possible.”

Thinking back on her years at Duquesne University, McCarthy said, “The instructors are amazing. They really care and they meet with you as long as you need. Plus the education you get is relevant because board members work in industry.” In fact, McCarthy herself now sits on the board.

Though she was influenced by many of her professors at Duquesne, McCarthy feels a special gratitude towards Dr. Keagy. “I was in the right place at the right time,” she reminisced. “Before I ran into Dr. Keagy in the restaurant that night, I hadn’t considered going back to school. But the Computational Math program was the right fit for me.”