We know the best way for students to learn more about STEM is through interactive activities. We also see value in sharing with parents and students information and real people stories about their STEM careers. Enjoy sharing this story about a Data Scientist with SimIS, Inc.
Meet Mitchell Kieffer – Data Scientist with SimIS, Inc.
Mitchell Kieffer has been with SimIS, Inc. since September 2017, and he uses his STEM skills on the job daily. He leads working groups on high-level projects and finds solutions to problems. With his STEM experience, he has found himself working with clients from the highest brass of the military, to government agencies and international organizations. “My STEM background allows me to imagine everything that is within the realm of possibility. I use the reliability theory and statistical analysis to help a client develop the test and evaluation aspects of a project. I ask them what their objectives and assumptions are and develop a linear testing process that verifies these assumptions and courses of action,” said Kieffer.
Using this scientific method, Kieffer can then find the best solution to a problem. “Even if all models are wrong, some are useful. It is this process of not inserting bias into analysis that allows the unexpected to develop. Once I go through this process, then comes the fun part of building code,” said Kieffer.
Kieffer wholeheartedly believes in education and highlights the STARBASE program as a model of what he wished he had in elementary school. As a data scientist, his work is based on 4 pillars, computer programming, and statistics, but also communications and business. It is the latter two that come from early STEM education. “I was naturally drawn to numbers, and I love the word analytical, but the social interaction, the building of teams and the designation of tasks and workflow are key skills I use in my career. All of these are found in STEM education. It is especially important to have this focus in elementary school during the formative years,” he said.
STEM skills are used every day, and it gives you many options to make various career moves. Keiffer said, “I believe Data Scientist is the job of the 21st century. In the world of big data, this is the data age and data is the next boom. What I love about my career is working hard at something that may seem impossible to solve and then finding a solution to that problem. It’s very rewarding.”
More than most people, Kieffer can truly say that STEM education was key to saving his life. His remarkable story began as an active duty U.S. Air Force member in a scientific career field. In 2010, Kieffer applied to a highly competitive and prestigious masters degree program through the Air Force. During the application process, he also volunteered to relieve Army personnel in Iraq who had back to back deployments. He voluntarily asked to go down range to work with the Army Corps of Engineers in the rebuilding of Iraq. While he was serving in Iraq, two things happened. He heard he was selected for the prestigious master’s program, and he encountered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) whose blast waves left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury, (TBI) and a dulling of all cognitive senses.
When he returned stateside his recovery was as much mental as it was physical. “For a good year, all of my senses were stunted. I could see things happening from the inside out, but just answering a simple question would mean hearing the question, breaking down the message, thinking about how I felt and then relaying an answer to that question. “It was grueling.” He persisted in his recovery and continued as planned with the graduate work to obtain an M.S. in Operations Research. Kieffer recalled his very first statistics assignment. “One assignment kept me at the computer for 7 hours, when it would have taken another student an hour and a half.
STEM became the best thing that could have ever happened to me because it made me have these mental workouts in the analysis that made me stronger. Soon that 7 hours, became 6 and then 4 and then 2, and I was eventually able to use my personal experience with TBI to forecast my recovery through data analysis.” Kieffer explained that STEM work creates new pathways in the brain and is essential to keeping your brain sharp. He has also done research on the impact STEM study can have on reversing degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. “If I didn’t have that STEM program, I don’t know where I would be today,” said Keiffer.
Mitchell Keiffer is a Data Scientist, a Purple Heart recipient, a two-time Ultimate Champion of the 2013 and 2014 Warrior Games, and a STEM student success story.
Check back soon as we will have career highlights from our STARBASE Partners and others who have STEM-related positions. This is an exciting way to start thinking about a career in fields such as engineering, technology, or environmental stewardship.
Getting familiar with STEM Careers is important at the elementary school level. That’s why STARBASE Victory starts as early as the 3rd grade for our summer camps and 4th grade during the school year. We hope you visit the Virginia Career View website as soon as there is so much information here to help parents and students start thinking about the future!