This article is published in the June 2024 issue.

UR2PhD Computing Research Engagement and Awareness Workshops Helped Undergraduates Learn More About Research Careers and Pathways

By Julia Sepúlveda, Program Associate, CRA-E

During the spring, Niema Moshiri (University of California, San Diego) and Christine Bassem (Wellesley College) led four workshops as part of the UR2PhD Computing Research Engagement and Awareness series. Over the course of the series, they helped students develop a deeper understanding of what computing research is, what it can look like, and why it might be an enticing career path for students. The series engaged over 140 undergraduate students from more than 60 institutions during the one-hour workshops.

In February, during the first workshop, “So you’ve done some research, what’s next?” the team moderated a panel discussion that featured two industry researchers, a professor, and two undergraduate researchers. Participants learned more about the research process and the challenges the panelists faced throughout their research journey. The session closed with advice for new researchers.  

In March, the series set out to answer the question: “What does a career in computing research look like?” The session challenged assumptions about where computing researchers work and what their day-to-day job looks like. The session ended with a Q&A session that included the perspectives of a national lab researcher, a professor, and a bioinformatic scientist. Participants walked away with a better understanding of career possibilities in the field. 

In April, Professors Moshiri and Bassem encouraged participants to reflect on impact. They invited three current graduate students to speak to the prompt, “How will my research change the world?” The guest speakers gave flash talks about their work, delving into what computing can tell us about the future of work, urban air pollution, and microbial communities. 

To close out the spring series in May, the team illustrated the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of the field, exploring, “How do I combine other interests with computing?” Participants heard from two entrepreneurs who use their technical knowledge to pursue their passions in agriculture and gaming. Moshiri and Bassem took the opportunity to highlight how research has far-reaching impacts in art, paleontology, sports, health, economics, fashion, mapping, and food production. 

The UR2PhD Computing Research Engagement and Awareness Series will continue in August and we encourage any undergraduate who has an interest in computing research to participate. Sessions are open to all undergraduate students in North America, irrespective of skill level and experience. The UR2PhD team would also like to thank all of our guest speakers for sharing their stories and reminding us of the diversity of experiences across the field. 

Recordings from the spring 2024 sessions can be found on the Computing Research Association’s YouTube channel; view the full playlist.