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exploreCSR puts students on a path to computer science research

Nimeesha Chan is looking for “a-ha” moments. She’s a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago studying computer science (CS), and equates it to connecting dots between different concepts, like “keeping wires and spare parts to repurpose them to fix something else.” Last year she attended a workshop hosted by exploreCSR awardee Dr. Shanon Reckinger.

exploreCSR funds faculty to host workshops for undergraduates from underrepresented groups in order to encourage them to pursue CS research. As part of Google’s commitments to racial equity in education, we’ve provided exploreCSR awards to 50 institutions around the world for the 2020 academic year. In 2018 and 2019, an average of 59 percent of students surveyed by exploreCSR identified as women of color. In 2020, 89 percent of U.S. and Canada awardees plan to engage Black and Latinx students. 

Here’s what Nimeesha had to say about what she learned from the exploreCSR workshop and what’s next for her journey in computer science research.

A group of young women collaborate on a project.

Nimeesha, second from left, and peers collaborate on a computer science research project at the University of Illinois Chicago 2019 exploreCSR workshop.

What did you take away from the workshop?

I learned how non-linear the path to research is. Some go straight to graduate school, and some go into industry first. Some know exactly what they want to explore, and some figure it out along the way. Engaging with the faculty members, graduate students and alumni who shared their journeys made applying to graduate school a lot less daunting, and a much more tangible path to pursue. The common denominator is a drive to push beyond what we already know, and make improvements and new discoveries, and I am so inspired by that. I also made new friends who I can both lean on and support as we get through college together!

What are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

Working on two research projects, learning to be more effective at tutoring our Data Structures class, and doing more work to support underrepresented groups in CS. The pandemic, as unfortunate as it is, has stimulated major growth in data-driven medical research, both in industry and academia, and I am so excited to be a part of that space when I graduate next spring. 

What advice do you have for others curious to start their journey in CS research?

Do something today! Schedule a meeting or send an email to your CS professor or TA, share your interests, and ask about their research and resources they would recommend looking into. Alternatively, pick a random tech talk/event to attend, whether in or out of school, or online, and explore current research. The earlier you start, the more holistic your view of the field will be, and you may be surprised at what you discover!

Congratulations to the faculty across 50 institutions who received our 2020 exploreCSR awards. We look forward to the opportunities this year’s awardees provide to students like Nimeesha, influencing a diversity of future CS researchers to shape our world for the better.

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