W&J Women in STEM: Getting to know Dr. Faun Doherty

Created: April 25, 2018
Last Updated: January 31, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (April 25, 2018)—While the world of STEM careers may have originally been a boys club, more and more women are pursuing their passion and making an impact in the field, with many getting their education right here at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J)! In honor of the strong, intelligent women who are defying gender stereotypes in the workplace, we’re highlighting a few of our own in a new series on W&J Women in STEM.

Faun Doherty, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics. She is specifically interested in graph theory, discrete modeling and interdisciplinary projects involving graph theory and biology. Last spring, Dr. Doherty realized her dream of teaching internationally when she taught math for a semester in The Gambia.

We asked Dr. Doherty about her work in mathematics and her path to W&J. Check out what she had to say!

How did you become interested/involved in your field of study?   

My parents are both teachers of mathematics. They were able to teach in different countries as I was growing up since math is pretty much a universal language. I wanted to do the same. I was only planning to get a masters degree, and pursue a doctorate in something else, but I did well, and enjoyed it.

Who are some of your role models or inspirations in the field?

My parents were great role models. I also really admired my advisor, Dr. Lundgren. He was a great teacher and really supported women in mathematics.

What challenges do women face in your field? What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

There are certainly fewer women in math than men.  Sometimes that can produce a “boys’ club” environment in the work place or grad school. Women can be looked down on, and offered fewer opportunities. I found myself at a Ph.D. program that felt more nurturing than cutthroat. My advisor chose to do research with many women Ph.D. students, and went to great lengths to make sure that we had good opportunities to present our work, attend workshops, and get good post docs.  He made us feel well supported, and successful in our work.

What made you want to teach others about your field?

Math is much more than what most people think it is. You cannot get an inkling of the beauty of math until you have worked past calculus, and entered the world of proofs. When I can accompany students on that eye-opening journey, it is very exciting.

What advice do you have for young women interested in STEM studies?

Know that you certainly can do it, and you are certainly smart enough. Find supportive people to have around you, and enjoy what you do.

This article is part of a larger series on W&J Women in STEM. Get to know some of our other professors: Dr. Alice Lee, Dr. Jennifer Bayline, Dr. Deborah PolvaniDr. Kelly WeixelDr. Jenny Kline, and Dr. Amanda Holland-Minkley.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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