A total of sixteen undergraduate and graduate students from the Department of Computer Science attended the Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston, Texas at the end of September. The conference is the largest of its kind at 20,000 attendants and is an homage to the late Grace Hopper, a United States Navy rear admiral, computer scientist, and pioneer of computer programming. The conference’s mission is to foster networking, professional development, and recruiting efforts of women and underrepresented groups in technology. The Anita Borg Foundation created the conference in partnership with the Association of Computing Machinery.
“It's remarkable how our students moved from being overwhelmed by the huge size of the conference on the first day to become both inspired by and sources of inspiration on the last day," said Mohammed Seyam, a visiting assistant professor who had previously attended the conference. "They get to feel the energy of 20,000 women whose passion is computing. Moreover, our students got to represent our department at the Virginia Tech booth. Having students representing their schools is not very common, but we think it helps our students work on their presentation and public speaking skills, and it helped our booth visitors get a real sense of what studying computer science at Virginia Tech is like through the eyes of our students."
One Ph.d. candidate, Negin Forouzesh, had extra reason to celebrate at Grace Hopper. Forouzesh won third place out of 200 entrants in the ACM Student Research Competition for her project Finding Optimal Dielectric Boundary for Practical Continuum Solvation Calculations. Forouzesh completed the project under the guidance of her adviser Alexey Onufriev, professor of computer science, and Layne Watson, professor of computer science, mathematics, and aerospace and ocean engineering.
"The Grace Hopper Celebration is a unique event for women in tech, full of inspiration, opportunity and friendship with more than 20,000 attendees from around the world," said Forouzesh, who had several interviews while attending.