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Williamsport grad putting math skills to good use

March 29, 1999

Lisa KeserBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T MEAGHER / staff photographer




DOWNSVILLE - When Lisa Keser took her first math course at Williamsport High School she thought it would be her last until college.

It wasn't that Keser wasn't good at math. She was great. So great she needed only one math course in high school to complete her math credits for graduation.

Thanks to the encouragement of math teacher Larry Wadel, Keser said she forged on in math and today is a civil engineer involved in the construction of Universal Studios' newest amusement park in Florida.

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Keser, 32, of Bowie, Md., is about to complete her job as project manager, overseeing the construction of "Poseidon's Fury: Escape from the Lost City" at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla., the 1984 Williamsport High graduate said.

She has been working on Poseidon's Fury, which is part of "The Lost Continent," since December 1997.

Participants walk down a platform surrounded by a vortex of water to the lost city of Atlantis, Keser said Sunday as she sat in her mother's living room on Spielman Road. Her mother is Paula Keser.

Lisa Keser is one of five project managers for the Baltimore-based Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., which is constructing "The Lost Continent" and "Seuss Landing" for Universal.

Islands of Adventure opened informally Saturday with some rides, including Poseidon's Fury, still being completed.

Poseidon's Fury should be ready within a month, she said. Islands of Adventure, which includes "The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man," will hold its grand opening on May 12.

As project manager for Poseidon, Keser said she is in charge of invoices, scheduling and negotiating with contractors.

"It was unlike anything I had ever done before," said Keser, who had done mostly historical, interior renovations.

It wasn't like building a box for a show. Construction of the set was intertwined with the show, she said.

Keser wasn't even thinking of engineering when she started Wadel's Algebra II and Trigonometry class her freshman year.

Wadel encouraged her to attend a talented and gifted program at the University of Maryland at College Park sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers.

By the end of the summer she had earned college credit, was writing a thank you letter to Wadel, and had started putting her heart into her academic classes.

"I always thought she was a good student and she was," said Wadel, who lives in Chambersburg, Pa.

While as many girls as boys take the higher math courses, Wadel said he hasn't seen many women go onto engineering careers as Keser did.

Keser wanted to be an architect when she was growing up, not an engineer.

She changed her mind after attending an architectural program at Carnegie Mellon University In Pittsburgh during the summer of her junior year in high school.

It was there that Keser said she realized architects were more artistic, while her specialty was math, which was better suited for engineering.

Her college search had been based on finding a school where she could pursue architecture and softball. She ended up fulfilling a lifelong dream of attending Penn State, but later transferred to the University of Maryland at College Park so she also could work for Whiting-Turner.

She said she received a master's degree in civil engineering with a concentration in construction management from UMCP.

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