The University of Arizona

Alumni Early Career Profiles - Britt Zitterkopf

Name: Britt Zitterkopf
Education: B.A., Mathematics, The University of Arizona, 2002
B.S., Computer Science, The University of Arizona, 2002
Position: Software Engineer
Lockheed Martin
Sector: Manufacturing


I am an engineer in Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems & Solutions. I joined Lockheed Martin immediately after graduating from the University of Arizona (UA). While an undergraduate, I worked in the UA Mathematics Department as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant, and I also interned at IBM as a software engineer.

As a participant in Lockheed Martin's Engineering Leadership Development Program (ELDP), I get to rotate through different engineering discipline positions. I have worked in software, systems, and product engineering positions. My work in software led me to work on a very interesting project, the Foliage Penetration Synthetic Aperture Radar (FOPEN) program. Under sponsorship of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin developed an airborne VHF/UHF dual-band synthetic aperture radar for imaging concealed targets. Since its inception in 1997, the FOPEN program has advanced to a mature system that has completed more than 370 flights. Image formation and subsequent sophisticated target detection processing are performed in real-time onboard the aircraft.

I graduated from the University of Arizona in 2002 with a B.A. in mathematics and a B.S. in computer science. As part of my undergraduate course work, I also obtained a business minor, which has helped me better understand the business side of working for a large corporation. I recently completed a Professional Certificate in Systems Engineering from the UA this fall. I am currently working toward a Master of Engineering at the UA. When I was an undergraduate, I obtained an internship at IBM. That helped me decide whether I wanted to continue my education right away or join the workforce. Now I still get to work toward my Masters degree, but Lockheed picks up the bill.

In my job, I have used ideas from linear algebra, numerical analysis, mathematical modeling, and advanced applied analysis. I have found my computer science background to be the perfect complement to the mathematical skills that I use every day. The career I've chosen deals with algorithmic-intensive systems. We have software engineers who work on the programs, but it is the mathematicians, who understand the algorithms, who are highly valued on the programs. I would have never dreamed that my mathematics degree would have helped me get a job so challenging and exciting. I encourage anyone who has an interest in mathematics to pursue the degree. It will allow you to be versatile and will lead you to a variety of different jobs and opportunities.