Alumni Spotlight: Ryan ’07 and Valerie (Sargent) ’06 Smith

Ryan and Valerie (Sargent) Smith are both alumni from the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities. Valerie graduated in 2006, and Ryan a year later in 2007. They began dating while at the Academy, got married in 2011, and currently live and work in Silicon Valley.

Ryan graduated with high honors from Indiana University with a BA in linguistics and minors in both Russian and Finnish. He recently completed his masters in computational linguistics from the University of Washington. While working on his degrees, Ryan participated in both academic and volunteer organizations, such as the Baltic and Finnish Studies Association (BAFSA) and the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project.

Currently, Ryan is a programmer working for Yummly (, a recipe search engine. He specializes in multilingual natural language processing, incorporating both hand-designed linguistic systems and statistical data processing. His main interest is in information extraction systems designed to work with multiple languages. He has studied more than 20 languages, and has written computer programs to analyze over a dozen languages. These include Russian and Japanese (both of which he first studied at the Academy), Finnish, and even Classical Mongolian.

Valerie attended Purdue University, where she combined her love of music and engineering to earn a BSE in acoustical engineering with minors in music theory and mechanical engineering. While at Purdue, she was a founding member of the University chapters of both the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and Audio Engineering Society (AES). She was awarded the Robert Bradford Newman student medal for merit in architectural acoustics for her work on a paper which she co-authored and presented at the 2010 conference for the Institute of Noise Control Engineering (INCE).

Valerie currently works as an acoustical consultant at Charles M. Salter Associates in downtown San Francisco, after spending the previous 2 years working at Daly-Standlee & Associates in Portland, Oregon. She uses acoustic modeling software to predict future noise levels as well as monitoring environmental noise and improving room acoustics. Every day is unique, as she spends time working on projects varying from high-rise residential towers to public transportation systems. She is currently working to become a licensed professional engineer in acoustics. During her spare time, she continues to pursue her love of music with community band.