More than 70 women undergraduates came from as far away as Denmark and Qatar to attend a recent conference at Carnegie Mellon focused on computer science research opportunities for female students.
A first-of-its-kind conference, "Opportunities for Undergraduate Research in Computer Science" (OurCS) was sponsored by Microsoft Research and featured some of the world's leading female computer scientists as speakers.
OurCS focused on teaching the students how to do research by immersing them in real projects as they worked in teams guided by scientists from academia and industry. Topics ranged from "Disagreement in Wikipedia" to "Claytronics," and "A Multi-Robot Choreography."
"OurCS is unique in bringing together research professionals and computer science undergraduates in one venue for an intense weekend of problem solving," said Carol Frieze, director of Women@SCS, an organization that promotes opportunities for women in Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science. "As well as research experience, the conference is a great venue for networking, mentoring and advice on going to graduate school."
She adds, "We are helping to rev up and inspire these young women to be future leaders in a field in which women are currently underrepresented."
The keynote speaker was Frances Allen, who last year became the first woman to receive the nation's top computer science honor, the A.M. Turing Award.
During her 45-year career at IBM, Allen mentored many of her female colleagues. "Industry has sent mixed messages to the technical woman," she said. "We need to reward technical expertise as you would management skills. We've got to start promoting our great technical women."
Other speakers included Jennifer Tour Chayes, manager for mathematics and theoretical computer science at Microsoft Research, and Jeannette Wing, assistant director for Computer Science and Information Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation. Wing is the former head of Carnegie Mellon's Computer Science Department.