University of Texas at Austin


A Jane of All Trades - Profile Charlott Low

By Rebecca Riley

Published April 3, 2023

Charlott Low

Just a few days into her well-earned retirement, Charlott Low was deep in reflection. At last, she cleared her throat and summed up twenty-five years in two sentences: “There's a comment at the end of every UT job description - other duties as assigned. All of my duties were other duties.”

Suffice to say, one week of leisure has done nothing to cure her of an administrative assistant’s efficiency. 

In 1998, when Charlott first began work at what was the Texas Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics, her only job was to process manuscripts for the journals of which J. Tinsley Oden, professor and the founding director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, was an editor. Over two and a half decades at what is now the Oden Institute would see her role expand into everything from website development to working with graduate students who would go on to become professors. 

As the Institute evolved, so did I.

— Charlott Low

“I became more of a jane-of-all-trades,” Charlott explained. “As the Institute evolved, so did I. Over the years, I began to joke that I feel like a live history of it, like Dr. Oden and Lorraine Sanchez, and a few others who were there from the very beginning.”

In fact, Charlott’s keyboard clicks were behind the Oden Institute’s first website — the first website not to be a lone page with ‘Welcome to the Oden Institute’ pasted across it in Times New Roman font, that is. 

“For a while when things began I was a technology person. But, over the years, as you know technology grows so fast that nobody can keep up. The website quickly evolved until we had experts coming in to do it, but the original site was just regular code. I've been on the website committee for the Oden Institute since that very first rewrite. That's been interesting over time to watch the evolution of web development languages.”

Now that retirement stretches out in front of her Charlott is looking forward to some more evolution of her own. As of now she’s recruiting her niece to teach her piano and has picked five new languages to practice each day.

“I'm sort of a hobbyist in that I like to learn new things. Once I learn how to do something and am able to do it with some degree of talent, I drop it and learn something else.”

Hobbies she’s already checked off her to-do list include creating mosaics, painting, making jewelry and learning the traditional form of Chinese writing so that she could read some of the old Taoist manuscripts and poetry from the Tang Dynasty. Occasionally, she’s been known to treat the graduate students to a few words of Middle Chinese. 

“They all got a good kick out of that, because it was so unexpected,” laughed Charlott. To hear her tell it, the Tang Dynasty hasn’t been the only source of verse around the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Building. 

“Dr. Oden is prone to spout poetry. He will extemporaneously make up a poem in the middle of talking with students and other professors. I've had the most amazing conversations over the years with the faculty -  Tinsley Oden, Leszek Demkowicz, Ivo Babuska - and everyone. It’s just…” she trailed off in thought.

“It reminds me of a quote about Byron:  thoughts flew between the minds of all participants. Incredible breakthroughs come from that. That's part of why the interdisciplinary nature of the Institute is so alive. It’s because we have faculty members who embody that whole idea amongst themselves. It's incredible that I have been a part of that in terms of just being present to experience it with them. I feel incredibly blessed and honored to have been at the Oden Institute all these years.”

All the students, postdocs, faculty, and staff who have known Charlott over her many years with us will undoubtedly agree the feeling is mutual. 

Charlott’s retirement celebration took place on April 4 at the Oden Institute.