The first phase of Carrie Whitlock’s career took her around the world.
With an undergraduate degree in international affairs, Whitlock initially worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, examining population and health issues. This experience led to a master’s degree in demography, the statistical study of human populations, which she earned while working full-time. From there, Whitlock moved to the U.S. Department of State, where she helped quantify and evaluate the impacts of U.S. efforts to address HIV/AIDS. Later she worked in the office that oversaw the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
After more than 10 years working in the government sector, including stints in Rwanda and Cambodia, Whitlock decided she was ready to transition to a new career that would allow her to focus on her long-held interests in population, environment and geographic information systems (GIS). She settled on the field of urban planning and began an online master’s program through the University of Florida. One requirement of her master’s program was to participate in an internship, and that is how she discovered the research opportunities available at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). She first joined ORNL as a participant in the Advanced Short-Term Research Opportunity (ASTRO) Program, and later moved to the Post-Master’s Research Associate Program.
“This experience has helped me to transition careers and given me an opportunity to learn a variety of new skills.”
Under the guidance of Amy Rose, Ph.D., group leader for Human Dynamics in the National Security Emerging Technologies Division, Whitlock contributed to ORNL’s LandScan database, which takes population counts and distributes them across an area to more accurately reflect where people live and work. Whitlock also assisted on projects that looked at environmental impacts on populations, such as sea-level rise.
Through her time at ORNL, Whitlock honed her skills in various scripting languages. Additionally, she took advantage of the opportunity to attend scientific conferences to broaden her knowledge of GIS.
“This experience has helped me to transition careers and given me an opportunity to learn a variety of new skills,” Whitlock said. “While I did go back to school, there is a difference between learning something in a course and being able to apply that knowledge in a work environment. This experience has helped me to solidify many of the GIS skills I learned through applying them to real-world issues, rather than just through academic exercises.”
After her appointment, Whitlock took a job with the city of Elk Grove, California, as a strategic planning and innovation program manager. In this role, Whitlock coordinates strategic innovation projects, works on sustainability and resiliency planning, and helps in the development of a Smart Cities implementation strategy.
The ASTRO and Post-Master’s Research Associate programs are administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.