Speakers provide invaluable advice at tjSTAR


Alan Miller, Peter Rochford, Lloyd Whitman and Brian Becker introduce themselves to the students in the “Research and Development” TjSTAR panel.

The sound of rustling died out in the room as the panel of speakers stood up. Brian Becker, president of Precision Economics; Peter Rochford, a senior scientist at Computational Physics, Inc.; motivational speaker Alan Miller; and Lloyd Whitman, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, addressed the packed room. This session was one of many in the fifth year of the annual symposium, tjSTAR, on May 29, an all-school event conceived to highlight student work and celebrate many of the professional relationships Jefferson enjoys in the greater capital area. The speakers began with a simple summary of their majors and following careers, but soon opened the floor to a flood of questions from students.

“I think the real value for the students is that they get this very unique access to all these people and a wealth of experience. They can ask questions that in everyday life they wouldn’t have the opportunity to. They get all this information that hopefully changes their perspective and makes them look at things differently,” Rochford, a second-year tjSTAR speaker, said.

At the panel, students asked about what it’s like to venture into not only the scientific world, but the independent business world as well, and the skills needed to be successful in a collaborative environment. Collectively, the panel emphasized how soft skills, such as writing and public speaking, are just as important as acquired technical knowledge. To prove this, they put two students on the spot, asking one to recall sports statistics from the games of the previous night, and the other to give a number after being orally told the string of calculations that led to it. Junior Parth Chopra, who did the math side of the demonstration, found the panel to be particularly helpful.

“I love to hear actual professionals in their fields talk about what they’re working on and to give a glimpse into what actually does happens Talking to them one-on-one afterwards also really gives one a chance to unlock a wealth of information,” Chopra said. “In the panel, there was a collective experience of around 200 years.”

In addition to Becker, Miller, Rochford and Whitman, a variety of other professionals come to Jefferson during TjSTAR to educate the students about topics ranging from patent law to galactic radio signals.

“I think that the kids at TJ are unique and classes aren’t enough for them. They need to expand outside to keep their minds activated and I think this is a great opportunity for them,” Becker said.

The symposium closed, as per tradition, with the signature keynote speech presented to seniors in the auditorium and broadcasted live to other students. This year, the speaker was bestselling author Richard St. John, who gave a modified version of his TED talk, “8 Secrets of Success.”

“Getting career advice after you’re in your career isn’t that helpful. TjSTAR is a chance for us, as students, to learn, interact and grow,” Chopra said.