“I write about dead women in STEM,” jokes Laurie Wallmark, a Hunterdon County resident who specializes in picture-book biographies of female pioneers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the STEM fields.
Wallmark’s latest book, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, 2017)—a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal awardee—follows the life of a trailblazing software tester and inventor who taught computers how to speak English. Her earlier work, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), is the story of a 19th-century mathematician who envisioned the age of computers.
The author, who teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College and at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township, is drawn to characters who overcome female stereotypes. She says she has experienced similar challenges. On several occasions, she had to fight for a slot in previously all-male classes before eventually getting a biochemistry degree from Princeton University and a master’s in information systems from Goddard College in Vermont.
Through her books, Wallmark aims to raise awareness of lesser-known women in STEM. This, she says, can spark children’s, especially girls’, interest in STEM, and help them make informed career choices. “Not everyone needs to be a scientist or mathematician,” says Wallmark, “but no one should have their possibilities limited.”
Wallmark is currently working on her third book—about another woman in STEM, whose identity she has yet to reveal. “Readers will be surprised to hear about my new subject’s accomplishments in STEM because she’s very well known in an entirely different field.”