Above and Beyond Scholarship – Vetria Byrd, PhD

Year of Scholarship and Conference Attendance: Life Sciences Society Computational Systems Bioinformatics Conference, 2006

Country of residence at the time of receiving the ACM-W Scholarship: United States

Dr Vetria Byrd is a Computer Scientist and Biomedical Engineering by training, and a Visualization Scientist by experience. She is an Associate Professor of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University, the founder of BPViz: Broadening Participation in Visualization Workshop and a member of ACM and IEEE. Dr Byrd’s research practice focuses on building the data visualization capacity of novice visualizers. Her research practices are informed by research interests: data visualization pedagogy, visualizing heterogeneous data, utilizing visualization techniques to advance the study, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). 

What has been a highlight of attending the conference (utilizing the ACM-W Scholarship)?

Relationship and network building with conference attendees whom I remained in contact with and would become mentors and supporters of me throughout my career.

How did attending the ACM-W sponsored conference impact your career?

The travel scholarship from ACM-W to attend the  2006 Life Sciences Society Computational Systems Bioinformatics Conference at Stanford University, led to valuable networking that would prove beneficial in my career as I continued to earn graduate degrees and attend other conferences.

What has been your career highlight? What are you most proud of?

I am the first in my family to earn a PhD and go on to earn tenure at a research-intensive university. This is an achievement for my family, for me and for other first-generation graduates. It shows it can be done! Earning the PhD has opened up many professional doors. I am most proud of persevering and not giving up (even when there were far too MANY, justifiable reasons to do so). I am most proud of using the trials and triumphs as learning experiences to inform how to navigate the landscape of being an African American female in STEM. 

After completing 2019 5K Cupcake Run/Walk for public education

What aspects of your career have you found challenging?

I have found every step/stage of my career has been made of character-building experiences. There are challenges associated with being the only female, being the only person of color, in some cases, being the only American in my graduate programs, dealing with microaggressions, having to prove your worth every single day, and the list goes on. Challenges build character, which builds resilience, and faith in a higher power. I have learned how to be an advocate not only for others but also for myself.

Was the connection to ACM-W helpful or important in any immediate way, and in any lasting way?

I am the founder of BPViz: Broadening Participation in Visualization Workshop. The 1st Biennial BPViz Workshop was funded by NSF and CRA-W/Coalition to Diversify Computing. Utilizing connections made by way of the conference I attended in 2006, I was able to reach out to colleagues in 2014 who showed up in support of the initiative. That initiative led to NSF funding to host the first REU Site with a primary focus on Data Visualization. The funding from ACM-W helped build professional relationships and confidence, enabling me to continue my academic journey from PhD to Associate Professor. 

I am forever grateful for the opportunities, and lasting professional and mentoring opportunities the ACM-W Travel Scholarship has afforded me.

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