CSC News

March 18, 2004

NC State’s computer science Ph.D. students now part of national cohort

Julie Starr and Polyxeni (Xenia) Mountrouidou, computer science doctoral students at NC State’s College of Engineering, were among the 100 women brought together by the Computing Research Association-Committee on the Status of Women (CRA-W) at a conference in Seattle, Wash., in December 2003.

They formed the first cohort of women computer scientists in doctoral programs at colleges and universities across the United States and Canada. Funding from Microsoft made it possible for them to attend.

Mountrouidou says she attended because she “thought it would be a fruitful experience, as it proved to be.”

Both came away with a community of colleagues that they can draw from for research and support as they continue in their doctoral programs.

Mountrouidou says she gained “knowledge about things I didn't even know how to ask, renewed strength to go on with my research after meeting these remarkable women. And last but not least, now I belong to a community that I know I can communicate with, exchange knowledge and experience with, and get support whenever I need it. I got to know people that are potential colleagues of mine and I can talk to them now about my research, as we have a mailing list for the cohort. The point is to keep in contact and this was a very important issue on the workshop.”

“We’re part of a class now,” Starr says. “That’s one of the nice things.”

“Another, she says, “is that now there are a lot of schools aware that NC State has a women’s program,” speaking of the Women in Computer Science organization at NC State’s computer science department, for which she is serving as president. She says that over 40 percent of the schools represented at the conference also have programs or organizations for women computer science students, and expects to be able to draw on that network for speakers and programs.

Mountrouidou, a first year Ph.D. student, says that “the most critical difference that this workshop brought to my academic life is that I learned that I can have a mentor and now I have got one.”

Mountrouidou, who has an undergrad degree in computer science, a master's in computer engineering, and worked for one year in industry, entered the field because ‘I adore math, and also I love a special feature that this science has: it constantly changes, never stays constant.”

She is pursuing her Ph.D. because “I love research. I found that out when I was working for one year in development; that was not what I wanted. I would like to have an academic career in order to get on with my research, but also to teach people what I love in this science and make them love it too!”

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Julie Starr

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