Distributed Research Experience for Undergraduates: Catching up with DREU Alumna Olivia Figueira


When did you participate in DREU and what was your project about?
I participated in a DREU program in the summer of 2019 at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. I worked with Dr. Jennifer Mankoff in her Make4All lab on a project aimed at finding the contribution of correlated stressors on mental health in college students.

How did DREU shape your research career?
DREU has shaped my research career in that it was my first official research experience and I really enjoyed it! I have had the goal of going to graduate school for a while, but I did not have any research experience off which I could base that goal. But after DREU, I feel even more excited and passionate to go to graduate school than ever before. It gave me a very unique view of the graduate school experience since I worked closely with a doctoral student in the lab, and I learned so much about conducting research at the graduate level. DREU allowed me to picture what graduate school could look like for me, and I am really excited about that prospect.

What advice would you have for DREU mentors and DREU student participants?
The best piece of advice I received during my DREU program was during a meet-and-greet lunch for undergraduate interns, graduate students, and visiting research interns in the computer science and engineering school that was held in my first week at UW. The graduate students were participating in a panel, and one of them, in response to the question “What do you wish you had known before you started your Ph.D.?”, said that they wished they knew that it was okay to not have all the answers and to ask questions, especially questions that they think are “dumb.” This really resonated with me as I felt somewhat unprepared having had no prior research experience, but I embraced that piece of advice and asked questions immediately when I had doubts, even if I felt like they were “dumb” questions, because clearly no one there is “dumb”! It really enhanced my experience since I was able to understand the project better and learn more from my mentor and the other students on my team. On the mentor side of things, I would advise them to tell their DREU students this advice! It helps the DREU student feel like they are in a safe environment and that learning (and making mistakes) is okay. This enhanced my DREU experience, and I hope other DREU students and mentors do the same!

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Distributed Research Experience for Undergraduates: Catching up with DREU Alumna Sarah Ita Levitan


When did you participate in DREU and what was your project about?
I participated in DREU in the summer of 2012, before my senior year of college.  I worked at the Columbia Speech Lab under the guidance of Dr. Julia Hirschberg. My project involved studying entrainment patterns in US Supreme Court oral arguments.  Entrainment is the phenomenon where people tend to become similar to their dialogue partner in conversation by adopting characteristics of their partner’s speech.  I worked on cleaning noisy Supreme Court audio recordings and measuring and analyzing entrainment on acoustic-prosodic features (such as pitch and loudness) between lawyers and justices.  We found that lawyers entrained more than justices, supporting the theory that the less dominant speaker is more likely to entrain to the more dominant speaker. 

How did DREU shape your research career?
My DREU experience had a major impact on my career path. Spending a summer immersed in research in a large university lab, surrounded by people working on exciting projects in natural language and speech processing, solidified my interest in getting a PhD in computer science and pursuing a research career.  I returned to the Speech Lab the following summer, and ultimately joined the Speech Lab at Columbia as a PhD student, with my DREU mentor as my PhD advisor.  I feel privileged to have had such a wise and dedicated advisor, whose enthusiasm for research is contagious, and whose commitment to helping her students is extraordinary. She is passionate about encouraging women in CS and continues to mentor DREU students during the summer. Under her guidance, I have mentored some excellent DREU students. 

What advice would you have for DREU mentors and DREU student participants?
The DREU program is more than an internship where a student completes a research project — it should be a mentoring relationship as well. For mentors, it is important to take the time to get to know your DREU student.  Meetings should not just be about the project details — ask your student about their plans for after graduation and offer  guidance and support.  For students, take advantage of this rare opportunity to be  mentored.  Communicate as much as possible with your mentor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need help.  And enjoy the experience — it will fly by!

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CRA-W Sends Distinguished Lecturer to MINK-WIC


The Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS) is designed to encourage women and minority undergraduates to pursue graduate education in computer science and engineering and to increase the visibility of distinguished women and minority researchers from academia and industrial or government research labs. It began as a CRA-W program in 2000 with funding from Lucent and is now […]

CRA-W Mentoring at the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing


By: Tracy Camp, CRA-W Member In: January 2016, Vol. 28/No.1 / The 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) was the largest-ever gathering of women technologists. GHC 2015 was held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, from October 14 -16, 2015. Following the trend of recent years, the size of the conference dramatically increased once […]

Attend the Inaugural Undergraduate Virtual Town Hall!


Originally Printed in the Summer/Fall 2015 Newsletter. by Lori Pollock, University of Delaware Would you or someone you know like to hear about leading edge computer science research conducted by a female computer scientist? Would you or someone you know like to participate
in short discussions about CS research paths, graduate school opportunities, time management, undergraduate […]

Exciting Events at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women


The 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, held in Phoenix from Oct. 8th – 10th, hit several milestones. First, conference attendance dramatically increased to 8000 attendees from 4700 in 2013. Also, the first-ever Male Allies plenary panel, with top executives from Google, Facebook, GoDaddy, and Intuit, occurred; this panel was a well-intentioned session, but […]