Statistics Launches Alumna Into High-Tech Career


Lesley Cheema, ’97, ’99 MS, was certain heading into college she wanted a career in mathematics.

But that all changed after a meeting with former statistics professor Lorrie Hoffman, Ph.D., who introduced her to new opportunities in the manufacturing world that relied more on statistics than math. That perfectly suited Cheema, who was more interested in practical applications of mathematics and its use in manufacturing.

“It’s exciting to see how math has such an impact on manufacturing, not just in typical uses of mathematics like accounting and actuarial sciences, but the use of statistics to make data-based decisions,” Cheema said.

Today, Cheema uses data to make decisions for a manufacturer of wireless devices in Apopka called Qorvo, Inc. She is an expert in defect metrology, a highly specialized field that uses data for the calculation of yields, monitoring of trends and quality control in a high-volume manufacturing line. The analyses used helps identify defects in products and potential problems in the manufacturing process — saving money, reducing cycle time and continuously improving products to meet customer needs.

Statistics is a field that’s often overlooked in the engineering world, but it plays a critical part, Cheema explained. Discovering patterns and trends through data gives leaders a big picture of where their company and product is heading.

“There is a lot of data out there, but if you can hone in on the parameters that steer your business, this will impact a company’s bottom line,” Cheema said.

Cheema credits her professors and advisors for mentoring her through her academic tenure at UCF. She and her husband considered the usual suspects when choosing a place to pursue higher education, but Orlando’s post-graduation prospects pushed them toward UCF. She interned at Lucent Technologies, for instance, while pursuing her degrees. That experience validated her choice, as she used her daily work as the basis for her thesis: A Methodology for Sampling Reduction in High-Volume Manufacturing.

She next took her passion for systems and quality control to Northrop Grumman Laser Systems in Apopka, Florida, where she used statistical tools to improve the manufacturing of handheld and airborne lasers for the military. Looking back on a rewarding career, Cheema credits hard work, determination and her college mentors for her success.

“Even though UCF had about 30,000 students at the time, it was still home to professors who cared and took the time to meet and influence their students,” Cheema said.

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