When Florida Polytechnic University student Isabel Zimmermann was in elementary school, she never imagined her professional future would be defined by math. After all, she struggled with it.
“I remember in second grade I had to stay in from recess because I couldn’t understand how to subtract,” said Zimmermann, a sophomore who is majoring in data science with a concentration in econometrics and quantitative economics. “I forced myself to love math. The truth is, the more you know about math, the more interesting it gets.”
Her hard work with numbers quickly became her passion. By the time she made it to high school, Zimmermann was taking all of the accelerated math classes. She also joined the engineering program, taking computer design and digital electronics, among other courses. It was not an interest shared by many of her female classmates.
“In our freshman year, over half of the students in the engineering class were females. By our senior year, there were only three of us left,” said Zimmermann, from Moline, Illinois.
She said that by being part of the very few, she felt an additional pressure to be not just good, but the best.
“Us girls, we always made sure we knew our stuff because we felt a bit more scrutiny, a few more eyes on us,” said Zimmermann. “At the end, that pressure motivated us a lot more and because of it, we just had to rise up.”
Growing up, Zimmermann wanted to be a surgeon and worked for three years as a certified nursing assistant at a hospital while in high school. However, she found herself enjoying working more with charts and data, than the direct care of the patients. That’s when she realized she wanted to pursue a career in data science.
A friend of her father lives in Florida and knew about her academic interests. One day, he sent them a picture of Florida Poly’s Innovation, Science, and Technology Building. “Look at this brand new university that just opened near me,” the message said. Zimmermann said she immediately had a good feeling about it.
“Florida Poly is small, new, and it’s got a start up feeling to it which I really love,” she said. “Everyone is a little bit more excited and a little bit more driven just with the nature of this university.”
Zimmermann is maximizing her college experience by staying busy on campus. She works at the Academic Support Service office, is part of the sustainability committee for the Student Government Association, and handles all of the marketing efforts for the Esports University team. She says that all of these roles are giving her skills that will help her excel in the world of data.
“Every industry wants data scientists. There’s not an industry in the world right now that doesn’t want some sort of new idea that you can get from the data,” she said
“I like to joke that data science is the business that created the STEM world, just because I’ll be able to do anything with it.”
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