Nearly 40 students from the University of California, San Diego – most of them affiliated with the university’s chapter of Women in Computing – attended the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing Oct. 8-10 in Phoenix, AZ. For two of the undergraduates majoring in computer science, it was also an opportunity to showcase research projects in the area of sketch recognition.
In a poster session, Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) student Ren Lee – who is head tutor in CSE 131 Compiler Construction this fall, and did her summer internship at Qualcomm – reported on looking for patterns in the errors produced by sketched symbol recognition techniques. Her goal: to find the patterns and improve the recognition algorithms. Lee was a semi-finalist in the ACM SRC Competition funded by Microsoft. At the same time, junior Eliah Overbey (pictured below) presented a poster on “Digital Circuit Recognition with Shape Context,” in which she examined how to use a technique from computer vision to recognize hand-drawn shapes. Overbey just finished her second consecutive summer internship as a software engineering intern, this year at Google, the previous at Qualcomm.
The research projects of both Lee and Overbey were supervised by CSE Prof. Christine Alvarado, who was a program co-chair of the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) this year. It was also the ninth year in a row for Alvarado to attend the conference.
"Having such a large group of students attend GHC, in addition to having UCSD CSE be a Silver Sponsor for the conference, sends a strong message about our commitment to and our support for our women students," said Alvarado. "At the conference, our women students, who make up only about 18% of the CSE major, get the opportunity to feel what it is like to be surrounded by technical women, and they get to meet women near-peers who are thriving in the tech industry."
A big draw for CSE and other students attending the conference was the Career Fair, which Alvarado describes as "enormous and very active." “There’s a very real chance that they will get a job at GHC,” she added.
Given CSE’s status as a sponsor of the conference, the department also sent two other faculty members: CSE Prof. Andrew Kahng, and lecturer Garo Bournoutian. Both were attending the event for the first time. The two men were part of a minority of male attendees at a conference that attracted more than 8,000 participants in all.
“It was wonderful to see the inclusiveness and camaraderie shared by everyone at the event, regardless of gender,” said lecturer Bournoutian. “The panels I attended were thought-provoking and covered a wide range of topics from cyber security to gender-bias in consumer product designs to academic leadership development.”
In her role as co-chair of the program committee, CSE’s Alvarado led the "For the Newcomers" session with her co-chair and conference manager. She also moderated a panel on Thursday called "Funding Advice from the Inside." Explained Alvarado: "We brought together people from NSF, NIH, MSR and a representative of the Canadian funding agencies to give tips on getting proposals funded."
Most of the students received funding to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration by applying through a competitive UCSD scholarship application process. Some other UCSD students were funded through companies where they did internships, or through other scholarship programs run by the GHC organization itself.