Sally Sutherland-Pietrzak

Science & Technology Division Head, NUWC Newport

About Sally

What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
Tennis, cooking, traveling

Do you play any musical instruments?
No (but I drive my son to piano lessons)

Do you play any sports or do any athletic activities?
I Love to play tennis

What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?
I just read “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah, very good. Also ‘The Girls” by Lori Lansens is terrific.

What’s your favorite song or band?
“Closer to Fine’ by the Indigo Girls (Best song ever!)

What is the highest degree you’ve attained?
Masters in Engineering

What future degree(s) are you planning on pursuing, if any?
I have a general interest in learning more about aquaculture

What schools did you attend?
The University of Virginia and the University of Rhode Island

What were your favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school, college?
Algebra II (I had a great teacher, Mrs. Cralle)

Who is your current employer?
NUWC Newport

What is your official title?
S&T Division Head

What is your “layman’s” title?
Engineer

How many years have you worked in this organization/position?
Over 20

What does your organization do?
We developed sensors and sonar systems for submarines and surface ships

What is your role in the organization?
I head the Science and Technology Division.

Describe your work environment
A good place to work with a variety of projects for the US Navy.

What tools and/or techniques do you use in your job?
I use my computer every day, analysis software (and lots of emails!)

Describe a typical day in your job
We could have a senior level staff meeting, where all the Division Heads would attend and we would go over what is happening in the Department. I could then have my own staff meeting; l could go listen to a presentation on some new research. I could help mentor a new professional; I could work on a proposal for a new project.

Describe an atypical (but notable) day in your job
I could travel to Washington, DC to meet with a sponsor(someone who may fund a project). I could attend a conference.

How is the work you do important to society?
We try to keep submarines and surface ships not just the best and safest today, but 10, 20, 30 years into the future.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
I was the manager of a Navy sonar system that was installed on US Navy Surface Ships. And the system worked great.

What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
We are looking at bringing in new bio-inspired projects to benefit the Navy

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
Making sure everyone has good work.

What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
I have had an opportunity to ride on both US Navy ships, Australian Royal Navy ships, and research ships including the R/V Knorr which found the Titanic.

What previous employers and positions have led to your current role?
I have been a supervisor (Branch Head), I was the Deputy Chief Technology Office (DCTO) and a US exchange scientist to Australia.

What other positions have you held in the past not necessarily related to your current career
Swimming instructor. ☺

What is the best job you’ve ever had and why?
Camp counselor was a good gig, but the job I have now is a great job, good pay, work, and travel.

What is the worst job you’ve ever had and why?
Working in my Dad’s commercial laundry – zipper burns!

What were you like as a kid?
Fairly quiet and studious.

What were your favorite books/shows/movies when you were a kid?
Loved the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family as well as Star Wars. Read lots of Nancy Drew.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
At 12 and 15– maybe an Oceanographer. At 18, a doctor (I think my Mom would have liked that.)

When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
I was pre-med and I really enjoyed math and engineering considerably more.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what other career(s) might you have pursued?
Maybe, if I had known about it, something in aquaculture.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
Definitely consider it! Lots of options and flexibility

What advice would you give students in general?
Take as much math and science as you can.

What are some interesting places you’ve traveled? (Can be career-related or personal.)
I was an exchange scientist to Australia – great place! I also worked in Italy – great food. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And I just came back from South Korea.

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