Heather Palmer, 2016

Major: Mathematics, Actuarial Science Concentration
Hometown: Washingtonville, NY

Heather Palmer holding a hypercube“I tell girls who are interested in math-based careers that they will be very successful, because math-based professions are seeking qualified women.”

As a high-school honors student with an aptitude for math, Heather Palmer had her pick of interested colleges. From her long list of potential public and private schools, Heather decided upon St. Thomas Aquinas College.

“My mom went to STAC. I loved that it is a smaller campus and that teachers would know my name,” Heather says. “This isn’t a research school, so the professors are here to teach and help, which is exactly what I wanted.”

Heather was accepted into STAC’s honors program and enrolled in STAC’s five-year dual-degree engineering program with Manhattan College. She says although math was always her favorite subject, she didn’t know how she could parlay her talent for numbers into an actual career.

“I knew that with a math degree I could eventually teach, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. All my high-school friends were planning to become engineers, so I thought I’d do that,” Heather recalls. “The problem was I didn’t love the sciences. After talking to my counselor at STAC, I discovered that actuarial science might be what I want to do.”

She changed her major to math with a concentration in actuarial science and hasn’t looked back. At the end of her junior year, Heather applied and was accepted to participate in a research opportunity offered through STAC’s math department. This past spring, Heather presented her findings on new ways to visualize the symmetries of a hypercube at a national mathematics conference in Los Angeles, California.  (Heather is pictured below with classmates and fellow presenters, Daniel Viaud and Lindsey Heiberger).

Heather Palmer with other two students in Los Angeles “I hadn’t done formal research before this opportunity,” Heather says. “It gave me a great platform on which to hone my communication skills and learn how to explain a complicated subject in a way that everyone can understand, which is an essential skill in math-based fields.”

In addition, to test her suspicion that a career in actuarial science was right for her, Heather spent two college summers interning at Zurich Insurance Group, a multi-line insurer serving customers in global and local markets. It paid off. After graduation, Heather began work as an actuarial analyst in Zurich’s Manhattan office.

“I was fortunate enough to have a job lined up before I graduated,” Heather said. “It’s a direct result of a lot of hard work and learning at my internship, as well as the connections I made while I was there. I’m excited about my future.”