Graduating senior lands Raytheon job

Nelson Christina 2011When Christina Nelson ’11 walks across the stage to receive her diploma on May 21, she will be headed straight into a full-time job at a leading defense company, bringing with her years of real-world experience in technology and research gained both in and out of the classroom.

Raytheon has offered the computer science and math double major a job as a systems engineer in their systems, validation, testing and analysis directorate division. According to the company’s job description, systems engineers are involved from product concept to completion, helping with integration and testing of hardware and software, developing test plans and procedures, debugging and testing systems functions, and evaluating performance.

The job offer, which was made well before Commencement, came as a result of Nelson’s years of work as an intern at Raytheon. She interned as a software engineer the summer of her sophomore year at Wheaton, and as a systems engineer her junior year. The fact that she has spent years working with Wheaton professors on an innovative computer research project likely helped, as well.

"Working at Raytheon has given me experience expressing my opinions, as well as presenting possible solutions to problems,” she said. "I think this experience not only has helped me in the classroom to see the real-life applications of what I’m learning, but also to better articulate what I’m thinking, especially when I am working on group projects.”

Nelson, who is also on the women’s track team and a tour guide for the Admission Office, has proven that she is good working independently, as well as on group projects.

Meneely Professor of Computer Science Mark LeBlanc hired Nelson her first year at Wheaton through a Mars Student/Faculty Research Grant to work with the Lexomics research group. The collaboration includes professors Michael Drout (English), Michael Kahn (statistics), and LeBlanc. They are using computer programs to count words in text and conduct statistical analyses to find similarities. Nelson has continued to work on the project each year and has been co-author, with the professors and other Wheaton students, on an article about the research.

In the summer of 2009, she took a few days off from her internship at Raytheon to travel to the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists conference in Newfoundland, Canada, where she, along with Drout, Kahn and LeBlanc, gave a presentation on the Lexomics research.

"She did great,” said LeBlanc. "After her talk, someone came up to her and asked her what her Ph.D. topic was. They thought she was a Ph.D. student! But she was a Wheaton sophomore.”

This semester, she has been working on independent research with LeBlanc on text-mining experiments, as well as other projects.

"In short, Christina has been our ‘graduate student’ for three years,” said LeBlanc. "She is so diligent, relentless, and organized. As a supervisor, I can bring her into any meeting at any level and know that she will bring back a to-do list that she shares with the group.”

Those leadership skills have served her well at Raytheon. "In my two years as an intern, I was always treated like a full-time employee, and given as much responsibility as any other member of the team,” she said. "There was one meeting last summer that my team leader could not attend, so he sent me to report on how our finances and the budget were coming along. When I got there, I found myself in a room not only with other team leaders, but also with my supervisor, department manager and the program manager! I truly felt like a valued member of the team.”

Read more about the Lexomics project at

Photo / Amie Rosenblum 2012