Above and Beyond Scholarship – Nova Ahmed, PhD

Professor Nova Ahmed is a computer scientist living in Bangladesh, teaching at North South University.

Year of Scholarship and Conference Attendance: ACM/IFP/Usenix Middleware 2008

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

Dr Nova Ahmed is a computer scientist living in Bangladesh. She has finished her PhD at Georgia Institute of Technology, USA and came back to Bangladesh to make changes. She used her experiences working with sensors to fight social challenges, such as systems protecting women from sexual harassment. She continues to use her work that could support marginal communities with low-cost, locally available solutions. She has worked with Google to explore the inclusion of women and marginal communities in technology. She is currently working on a funded project to enhance the inclusion of women in digital finance by enabling better technology designs funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her work ensures social justice and feminist human-computer interaction.

Nova is a Professor at North South University. A founder and EC of National Young Academy Bangladesh, former EC of Global Young Academy, EC of Biomedical Research Foundation Fellow of Sangat, the feminist network in South Asia, and founding board member of Kaan Pete Roi: a suicide prevention call centre. She is an active volunteer in Bangladesh Mathematical Olympiad, Children’s Science Congress and Missing Daughter’s Initiative. She has organized the Ada Lovelace Celebration to include more women in technology in Bangladesh for 2020 and 2021. In her free time, she is busy with her two daughters and a fun partner! 

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

The scholarship experience enabled me to attend a conference when I was feeling that I was falling behind having a newborn baby; it gave me the strength I needed to find my confidence. It was amazing. I received it at a time when that assurance was needed. I recommended many others to apply for it, and several of my young colleagues and students from Bangladesh received it.

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

I received an ACM-W scholarship to join a conference in 2008, right after I had a baby girl. I was feeling very down at that time as it was the middle of my PhD, and I was feeling sluggish and slow. The scholarship was a window for me to look away and look at what I was doing from afar. It was an amazing experience for me. I also realized how much I missed my baby girl being away from her! I wish everyone else could get this support when they need a boost. I have recommended many I mentored to apply for the ACM-W scholarship once I received it (and many have achieved it).

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

I returned to Bangladesh after finishing my PhD at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA. I was able to apply many things I learned to solve local problems taking into account the local context here. I am proud that I am working in a developing country, teaching young ones here who would be able to dream big and contribute where it is most needed.

What aspects of your career have you found challenging?

In a developing country, resource constraint is a challenge where staying connected and joining international conferences and workshops become challenging. I wish there were more opportunities for mid-career and senior women who are in economically backward regions. The funding structure and country-wide priorities are very different here compared to developed ones.

What would you recommend to young people thinking of a career in computing?

It’s a lot of fun; please consider it! You can code anything you can dream of and beyond!

Above and Beyond Scholarship – Julita Inca Chiroque

Julita Inca Chiroque has a high profile in High-Performance Computing and participated in the trailer of ISC 2023, the HPC Conference, along with the most experienced HPC authorities around the world.

Year of Scholarship and Conference Attendance: Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) 2012

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

Julita Inca Chiroque is a High-Performance Computing Scientist. She has worked as a High-Performance Computing Software Specialist in the nuclear fusion field at UKAEA after graduating with a Master’s in High-Performance Computing at the University of Edinburgh in 2019. She has previous experience in High-Performance Computing in the U.S. at ORNL, where she worked with supercomputers such as Titan and Summit in 2018. Julita has over 10 years of experience working on worldwide Linux projects such as GNOME and Fedora. She has also been working in the IT industry in Peru for companies such as IBM, GMD and Atento Peru. She was a researcher and lecturer at universities in Peru, such as UNI, USIL and PUCP. She works as a reviewer of the Technological Magazine of ESPOL-RTE and also as an online trainer at BackTrackAcademy. She is a creative professional who writes actively in her blog. She is a worldwide speaker, graphic designer, content creator, press communicator, and photographer.

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

It was the first time I went to an overseas conference of outstanding and innovative private companies such as Google, IBM, Xerox and other top universities such as Uni of Texas, Illinois, Manchester, Hong Kong, and others. I was able to witness PhD and MS-level cutting-edge projects. This strongly inspired me to be an excellent Computer Science professional.

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

Being one of the three winners in the ACM-W around the world positively impacted my career; it encouraged me to start off my computer science career in an international way. I was able to see how many successful women were directors and insightful leaders in the field. It gave me the confidence to plot my own path to success.

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

I am proud of being a role model for many students and professionals around the world. GNOME and Fedora mostly helped me to broaden my exposition on this matter. I was able to be a leader in my community, and in my role as an ambassador, for the part of the world from where I come.

What aspects of your career have you found challenging?

This computer world is led by a guys club. I did not only feel the difference of being a woman in IT in Peru, but I also felt the same in the two countries I have worked for, such as the US and the UK. I am still working on being a calm thinker like some of my male colleagues. However, I also feel my communication and interpersonal skills put me ahead.

What would you recommend to young people thinking of a career in computing?

First of all, determine the path in computing you want to follow. Nowadays, we have AI, HPC, data analysis, quantum computing, and other subsections that are part of the computing world. As soon as you decide your path, learn the algorithms that rule that sub-field. The programming language is later. You can study the impact of how to apply that technology in a specific sector, to finally choose an organization according to your knowledge and values.

Anything else you would like to share with us that we can highlight about your story?

Like all stories of success, I faced several failures in my life, but I learned from those early failures. That made me the strong, positive, ambitious woman I am today. I developed my creativity by learning new skills every day. I am still learning, looking to improve myself each day, not just to be a better professional but also to better serve the community around me.

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.

Announcing the New ACM-W “Above and Beyond Scholarship” project

We are delighted to introduce “Above and Beyond Scholarship”, a special project focused on the ACM-W Scholarships Program. The ACM-W Scholarships provide support for women undergraduate and graduate students in Computer Science and related programs to attend computing research conferences.  The project aims to follow up on the historical scholarship data since its inception in 2006 to do a potential longitudinal assessment of the impact of the scholarship on the educational trajectory and career path of our scholars.

The project team worked very hard to reach out to approximately 400 scholars, and with a 40% return rate, the team was blown away by the success stories shared with them.  So, we are starting an interview series, “Above and Beyond Scholarship”, where we will share and celebrate the individual success stories of our scholars. We will be publishing these stories on our ACM-W website, social media channels, and also the ACM-W newsletter. 

Listen from Dr Bushra Anjum, Dr Viviana Bono, and Sharon Kang about how they brought this project to life. 

And stay tuned!