In the News

May 2, 2018

ICS Students Network at the Computing Research Association’s Grad Cohort for Women

Thanks to a sponsorship from the Department of Informatics, six female graduate students traveled to San Francisco to network with computing researchers and professionals and attend presentations and workshops at the Grad Cohort for Women 2018. Hosted by the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W), the event took place April 13-14 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

Informatics students at the Grad Cohort for Women 2018 (from left): Phoebe Chua, Fatema Akbar, Mayara Costa Figueiredo, Marie Tsaasan, Yao Du and Lu He.

Informatics Ph.D. student Yao Du says everyone was grateful for the sponsorship. “We very much enjoyed the networking opportunities and informative workshops offered.” The topics covered ranged from summer internships, career opportunities and job interviews to presentation and communications skills to resources for sexual harassment.

According to Fatema Akbar, another informatics Ph.D. student who attended the conference, “the speakers offered practical advice on finding a research topic, preparing the thesis proposal, balancing graduate school and personal life, and developing strategies for publishing research.” Akbar also enjoyed “networking with other Ph.D. students and learning about their diverse and interesting research topics within computer science.”

Du agreed, adding that she was “thrilled to see a large body of female ICS and engineering grad students representing UCI at the conference.”

Informatics, computer science, and engineering students represent UCI at CRA-W 2018.

The most memorable moment for Du was during the talk, “Strategies for Human-Human Interaction,” when Princeton Computer Science Professor Margaret Martonosi shared her own experience with discrimination as a female in STEM and provided resources to combat sexual harassment. “Tons of grad female students openly shared their own personal struggles and testimonies,” notes Du, who has been following a similar #MeToo movement in higher education in China, sparked by a 20-year-old case of sexual harassment being revealed on social media. “Hearing about this topic at CRA-W makes me feel very fortunate and privileged to study in the U.S. and attend conferences such as CRA-W,” says Du.

For informatics Ph.D. student Marie Tsaasan, the conference highlights were the keynote by Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe and the talks by Jamika Burge, a senior manager at Capital One. When Klawe acknowledged dealing with mental health issues, Tsaasan said it drew rounds of applause and resulted in others sharing their own socially stigmatized fears around mental health. “It was a very empowering keynote for me and others around me.” She similarly appreciated how Burge dealt with difficult topics, addressing them “directly, unflinchingly and with a touch of wry humor that brought a level of pragmatic manageability to every issue raised. Her style is unique, bold, colorful and her confidence is contagious.” This was Tsaasan’s second year attending, and she has already applied to be a volunteer at next year’s event to support future participants.

The CRA-W Grad Cohort for Women program, initiated in 2004, aims to increase the ranks of senior women in computing-related studies and research by building and mentoring nationwide communities of women through their graduate studies.

Shani Murray
ICS Students Network at the Computing Research Association’s Grad Cohort for Women

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