Cadet Participates in Navy Project at Johns Hopkins

A cadet is pictured

For Demetra Protogyrou ’19, the skills she learned in VMI’s applied mathematics department allowed her to pursue a summer internship with Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory. Her work, which started July and ended right before the fall semester, involved analyzing missile targets and how far apart missiles could be from each other.
“I learned that school and industry are two different things. You learn to program the basics, and in industry, they use every shortcut possible. Especially when I was reading code, and I realized it was already in the program. It was different in a sense,” she said.

Protogyrou was introduced to the internship after attending an alumni meet and greet last year on post where she met Jack Keene ’81, who works with the physics lab and was looking for interns. The internship helped her learn that research was a field she wanted to pursue as a career.

“It made me realize how much I like research. My biggest thing is operational research; just the idea of maximizing and minimizing, essentially how to maximize profit,” she said.
For example, if a company wants to start a new line of cookies, it first has to look at the cost of supplies versus the perceived profit, and if it is worth the investment, Protogyrou said. Many of the classes she’s taken at VMI, such as linear programming and operational research, helped prepare her for the work she did at Johns Hopkins. While working at the physics lab, Protogyrou connected with two VMI alumni, Paige Nardazzo ’14 and Graham Martin ’16, who showed her different career paths into research. Nardazzo attended graduate school before working at the physics lab, while Martin went to work at the lab right after graduation.

“They taught me a lot about life coming from VMI and the preparation we have. They were different majors but awesome to be around that you don’t necessarily get every day here,” Protogyrou said.