While growing up in a rural town in North Carolina, computer science major Emma Meno recognized the lack of  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) opportunities available to her. That’s why when she visited the Virginia Tech campus for the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED) C-Tech2 Camp, she knew this would be a school where she could grow.

“Simply put, I have always loved learning,” said Meno. “Studying new concepts and applying them to problems has always intrigued me. In my experiences as an undergraduate researcher, I have found that the challenges and rewards of research captivate me.”

As a researcher for the Hume Center for National Security and Technology, Meno focuses her research in the cybersecurity field and plans to continue this throughout her neural cryptanalysis graduate research. She hopes to apply her research findings to real-world problems in her future professional career.

Meno sees herself working in cybersecurity with a private defense contractor or even continuing her education further by pursuing her Ph.D. “As I pursue more of my graduate research and complete my summer internship, my professional future will be defined more clearly,” said Meno.

Mentorship from professors and advisors across the university are part of what Meno credits to her success as an undergraduate student. 

“Attending office hours to discuss topics with professors has been invaluable in shaping my undergraduate experience,” said Meno. “I have been fortunate enough to also network with faculty across other departments, including the math department, and with each interaction have learned more about the subject material and its applications.”

“Emma is truly a stand-out student who has impressive accomplishments and I am confident that she will be a leader in the engineering industry in the near future,” said Tonisha Montgomery, Department of Computer Science academic advisor. “She has demonstrated excellence in all that she puts her mind to and is clearly not intimidated by hard work.”

In addition to receiving this distinction, as well as the Senior Scholar Award at the April 30 virtual awards banquet, she is one of four students in the College of Engineering graduating first in class with a 4.0.

Meno is the recipient of well over a dozen scholarships and awards in addition to being named the 2020 Department of Computer Science Outstanding Senior. These include the Department of Computer Science Investment in Excellence Scholarship, the Virginia Tech Honors College Alumni Presidential Scholarship, and Virginia Tech Dean’s list to name a few.

In addition to her academic endeavors, Meno lives the spirit of Ut Prosim and gives back to the Blacksburg community through Campus Kitchen. “On Friday afternoons, a group of students would take food leftover in dining halls to a local food kitchen,” said Meno. “Seeing the gratitude of the workers and customers there was rewarding.”

Meno found her home at Virginia Tech as a student in the Honors Residential Commons and as a member of the Newman Campus Ministry choir. Additionally, Meno is part of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering Dean’s Team, and served as a member of the Hypatia Engineering Living Learning Community. 

“The true appeal of our computer science program does not lie with the degree itself or its academic prestige,” said Meno, reflecting on her time thus far at the university. “At Virginia Tech, each student is given the opportunity to choose their own journey. I am blessed to be a part of a program that challenges and fascinates me constantly.”

Written by Taylor Casarotti, a senior intern in the Department of Computer Science