Finding ‘Gold’ and Funding STEM
February 16, 2023 | By Patrick Reardon
Since 2020, The Air & Space Forces Association has presented three young women with the Dr. Sydell Perlmutter Gold Memorial Scholarship, an award of $5,000 per year for young women pursuing degrees in STEM. But the award represents far more than financial aid. Its recipients—all dependents of a present or former Airman—are blazing a wider path for women to excel in STEM careers, carrying on the pioneer work of the scholarship’s namesake.
Dr. Sydell Perlmutter Gold was unafraid to pursue a career in math and science, a predominantly male field. She earned her master’s degree in mathematics from the University of New Mexico in 1962 and her Ph.D. in theoretical mathematics from the University of California, Berkley, in 1973—at this point, she was already the mother of three children. She spent the better part of the next two decades years working in applied mathematics and national security, including serving on the National Security Council staff under Presidents Carter and Reagan and a six-year stint as deputy for strategic requirements in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research, Development, and Logistics.
In the 1990s, Gold began her career at SAIC as the Senior Vice President and Deputy Manager in the Advanced Technology & Analysis Sector, where she established a Women’s Business Forum to help female voices be heard at the company. In 1992, she was appointed to be one of the five original members on the Joint Advisory Committee on Nuclear Weapon Surety. She was also a member of the U.S. Strategic Command Strategic Advisory Group and served on Defense Science Board and National Academy of Sciences task forces.
She passed away in 2008, but her tremendous legacy is living on through the recipients of the memorial scholarship set up by her husband, Ted S. Gold, in 2020.
“It has been my privilege to help young women pursue their STEM-related education and career aspirations through scholarships honoring my late wife Sydell Perlmutter Gold,” Ted Gold said. “It is especially meaningful for me and my family that the Air & Space Forces Association provided the opportunity to extend these scholarships to daughters of Active and retired Air Force personnel.”
The first recipient, Shanti Mickens, is now in her junior year at MIT. A computer science student, Mickens has studied autonomous machines, 3D design, machine learning, and wireless technologies through her classes and on-campus research opportunities. She has worked as a software engineer intern at Apple for two consecutive summers.
“I hope to emulate what Dr. Sydell Gold did in the aerospace field in the computer science field,” Mickens said. “She was and still is today a role model for women.”
The 2021 winner was Abigale Lamontagne, who is in her second year at Northeastern University. Lamontagne is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering and has made the Dean’s List each semester. She spent last summer studying abroad in London, an opportunity she says was only possible through the Gold Memorial Scholarship.
The latest recipient, Stella Stozak, is the daughter of a retired Air Force pilot. She inherited her passion for aviation from her father and is now in her freshman year of mechanical engineering classes at Princeton University. Stozak says that her dream job is to fly for the Coast Guard, but USCG height requirements are blocking her way. She hopes her studies will lead her to opening the door of the cockpit for more women.
“Just as Dr. Gold pioneered her career in the male-dominated government and STEM fields, I will advocate for (and maybe even engineer) advancements in aircraft development and policy that eliminate gender bias and open opportunities for more women in the future,” she says.
“The first three scholarship recipients strengthen my optimism about our nation’s future,” Ted Gold said.
To be considered for the Dr. Sydell Perlmutter Gold Memorial Scholarship, applicants must be the daughter of an Active-duty, Guard, Reserve, or retired Airman; a graduating high school senior with demonstrated academic excellence in mathematics; and committed to pursuing a B.S. in science, technology, engineering, or math at an accredited four-year college or university. Preference is given to first-generation college students with demonstrated financial need.
Applications for the 2023 Dr. Sydell Perlmutter Gold Memorial Scholarship are open now through April 30.
Candidates can apply at afa.org/scholarships.