Computer Science, Cyber Engineering programs present regional workshop for undergraduate women in computing fields

Forty undergraduate students, including 34 women, attended the Louisiana Tech University Computer Science program’s “Cyber Research for Empowering Women Experimenters” (CREWE) workshop over quarter break.

Students gather for the CREWE workshop.The workshop provided undergraduate students from throughout the region with the opportunity to network while performing cyber experiments. It was open to all undergraduates enrolled in computer science, cyber engineering, computer information systems, and related disciplines.

Attendees watched presentations by mentors from Louisiana Tech, Bossier Parish Community College, Grambling State University, Northwestern State University and the University of Louisiana – Monroe. Students had the opportunity to learn about getting admitted to graduate programs, finding a research advisor, and earning research fellowships, as well as hearing from mentors on computing topics like smart cities, machine learning, ethics in information systems, cyber security, cloud computing, and risk analysis. They then worked in teams with the mentors to develop their own research plans. The workshop culminated in each of the teams presenting their research plans to the larger group.

“As a student wanting to go to graduate school but who is clueless as to what discipline I want to major in during graduate school, the CREWE workshop gave me meaningful insight into the many areas possible in the world of computing,” Alyse Jones, junior electrical engineering student at Louisiana Tech said. “I got a feel for what I did or didn’t like, despite the brief exposure to each topic. This experience helped narrow my focus of academic disciplines and made me feel more confident about pursuing a graduate degree.”

“At the workshop, I learned about the different tools that are currently being used in computing research and how they can be applied,” Eboni Williams, senior chemistry and computer science student at Tech added. “I also learned about the low numbers of women in STEM research, and the computing field in general. That is the very reason why the CREWE workshop is so important. It allows women who are interested in computational research to not only learn about the different areas of research, but to also meet other women who are interested in the same thing. The CREWE workshop showed us that we aren’t alone in this predominantly male field, and there is still plenty of research out there that we can help with.”

Mentors also left the workshop with a better understanding of the roles of women in computing fields.

“The most important lesson I learned was to be aware of the culture prejudices affiliated with the computing disciplines,” Dr. Ben Drozdenko, principle investigator of the Google grant and one of the leads in organizing the workshop, said. “To build a sense of belonging among women in computing disciplines, I should not assume that all computing students like fantasy or science fiction, or picture Bill Gates as a computing expert; instead, I should enable an environment where students of any gender and from various backgrounds can feel welcome and at ease.”

The CREWE workshop was a collaboration across the region and was developed by Drozdenko, an assistant professor of cyber engineering, and Dr. Pradeep Chowriappa, assistant professor of computer science. It was funded by 1 of only 15 Google exploreCSR: Google Grant for Undergrad CS Research Focused Workshops for Women grants awarded across the nation.

You can view a short video showing workshop activities on Drozdenko’s website.