Robin Singer, Coming Full Circle (Fall 2012)

Faculty Profiles provide an opportunity to learn more about the lives and previous work experiences of Sturgis faculty.
By Robin Singer, Mathematics – Sturgis East
Robin Singer Tests Equipment in Arctic Ice Camp During Month-Long Stint Near the Arctic Circle While Working for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Robin Singer tests equipment in Arctic ice camp
north of Alaska while working for
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Math teachers look for patterns in everything.   When I look back on my career path since college, two patterns emerge.  Geographically, my career has come full circle; it began on Hyannis Main Street in 1977 and returned to Hyannis Main Street in 2006 when I came to Sturgis.  In addition, my jobs have been on two distinct threads that have been woven together at Sturgis.  Let me explain.

I was not one of those young people who knew what they wanted to do from a very young age.  Having been versatile in school with many disparate interests, I found it excruciating to figure out what I was willing to spend 40 hours a week doing in order to earn a living.  I had studied “environmental health” at Brown University, had spent summers trying environmental law, and environmental political action and, despite a keen interest in the topic, neither one appealed to me as a career.

Robin Singer Runs Road Race for Mercy Otis Warren Women's Center while Working for  Elder Services

Ms. Singer (24) runs road race for Mercy Otis Warren Women’s Center while working for Elder Services

After graduation in 1977 I took a trip to Norway.  While climbing a mountain, I remembered I had enjoyed the “Adopt a Grandparent” program during college and decided I would pursue a career in human services, with a focus on services for the aging.  My first job was right down the street from Sturgis.  I served as program coordinator for Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands, which was a marvelous first job. I learned a tremendous amount there.  I think I would have been very surprised to find out that almost 30 years later I would be back in the same neighborhood, practically old enough to be an Elder Services client myself.

So work in the human services field was the first thread – it was a people-oriented career which included both the Elder Services job and (after a year of travel), I had another job running a leased housing program for low income people in Concord, Ma.

Traveling Through Europe

Venturing through Europe

robin 3

Venturing through Life

In 1980, I had saved up enough money to go on the trip I had dreamed of – a big one this time – traveling for a year, in Europe and the Middle-East.    This time my career epiphany occurred in a Belgian farmhouse, where a young engineer I had met was showing me the schematics for the robot he had designed for Shell Oil.  “Oho”, I thought.  “I used to love math in high school.  If only I could be young again.” (It seems funny to me now to have said that at age 25).   But fate handed me an opportunity to pursue that passion because when I was back in the US, working in Concord, I saw an advertisement inviting women who had studied science in college to come be retrained as engineers.  On a whim I looked into it and then found myself in an intensive re-entry program at BU to become an electrical engineer, graduating as valedictorian in 1985.

That was the year I began work as an ocean engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, designing instruments, interfacing instruments on buoys, controlling analytical devices, and doing whatever was necessary to enable data collection by WHOI scientists studying the oceans.  The most exciting adventure during those years was a month in an ice camp near the Arctic Circle and yes, we were visited by a polar bear.   I loved participating in WHOI science, supporting investigations by WHOI biologists, marine chemists, physical oceanographers, geologists, and ocean physicists.   This was the second thread of my career, intense submersion in the hard sciences and engineering, calling upon my passion for logic, precision, and figuring things out.

Robin Singer (left) with2012 Sturgis Frisbee Club

Ms. Singer (left) with
2012 Sturgis Frisbee Club

Ms. Singer likes the summers off made possible by a teaching career!  Here she is in California with her husband Tor Clark last summer

Ms. Singer likes the summers off made possible by a teaching career!
Here she is in California with her husband Tor Clark last summer

After 20 wonderful years at WHOI I decided I wanted a change and I wanted to combine both of my skill sets – working with people and the aspect of engineering I most enjoyed, mathematics.  I dipped my toe in the water to see if a career in education was feasible by teaching technology to elementary school children while servicing the school computers (a job held previously by our own Amy Peterson).  Yes, education was for me, and when I had the opportunity to teach mathematics at Sturgis I found my two threads wove themselves together seamlessly to bring me to a very satisfying place in a job I love, in a school I love.

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