Fischer: ‘Make this planet a better place’

An applied mathematician and computer scientist whose family fled to Canada in the 1920s after the Russian revolution, Charlotte Froese Fischer knows the importance of education and its ability to open up new worlds – especially for women.

“Fundamental skills in science are needed for the future. Society needs innovative ideas from everyone, including those of women,” said the internationally distinguished scientist, known for developing software used to calculating atomic structure.

Fischer, the first woman to win a Sloan Research Fellowship, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science, honoris causa (DSc) at the Thursday morning afternoon session of Western’s 312thConvocation.

She spoke to graduates from the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Engineering, stressing the value of education and lifelong learning.

“Going to school opened a whole new world for me. Aptitude tests always showed I should study math but I didn’t see math as leading to a job I wanted. I felt I should pursue a subject in which I could excel; I chose a double major in math, because it was easy, and chemistry, for my future,” Fischer noted.

She became a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1991, in part for her contribution to the discovery of negative calcium. Fischer has been an emerita research professor of computer science at Vanderbilt University since 1996.

“In comparing my graduation with yours, you will see there have been tremendous changes.

“Anticipate further changes and plan for a life time of learning. Education is one of the strongest predictors of life expectancy. Go out into the world, make your parents proud and make this planet we live on a better place. Remember – you may live to be 100.”

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