Woohoo! It looks like I'm heading to Mountain View next month for the 2009 Google Workshop for Women Engineers.
I found out about GWWE almost by accident. I was working on my still-in-progress application for the Anita Borg scholarship, and GWWE automatically showed up in a list of scholarships and awards for which I was eligible to apply. (Moreover, everything that I'd already completed for the Anita Borg application automatically carried over to the GWWE app, so it was a breeze to apply for GWWE as well. Good job, Google!)
The one thing that I had to do specifically for the GWWE app was write a summary of my research, which was going to be hard because, well, I'm not doing research yet. Fortunately, the small print said that I could also write about my research interests. Saved! Here's what I wrote.
I am an aspiring programming languages researcher in my first year of graduate study at Indiana University. My research interests include the design and implementation of functional programming languages, compilers, and logic programming systems.
My interest in functional programming began seven years ago with my first computer science course as an undergraduate at Grinnell College. At the time, I was a second-year music major, and I had signed up for an introductory computer science course on a whim. My background was rather different from that of my classmates; most had been programming for a while and already had a set of habits and assumptions developed over years of writing code. I, on the other hand, had never programmed before and had no assumptions at all. In retrospect, I believe my lack of experience put me at an advantage in learning the Scheme programming language and the functional programming paradigm, since I had no bad habits to unlearn! By the third week of the course, I was fascinated with functional programming, and I resolved to keep studying computer science.
After graduation, I spent four years working in the software industry. The time I spent away from school afforded me the chance to observe and learn from expert programmers on the job. In Portland, I was fortunate to get to know several members of a talented and outspoken community of programmers, some of whom were becoming increasingly involved with Haskell and functional programming. Listening to my colleagues' discussions reminded me of how much I loved functional programming, and with their encouragement, I decided to return to school in fall 2008 to pursue a research and teaching career in programming languages. I am now about to complete my first semester as a Ph.D. student, supported by IU's Women in Science Fellowship program. My interests have expanded to include areas of programming languages research such as compilers and logic programming. This spring I will be working with my professor, Dan Friedman, and a group of other students to explore topics related to the Constraint Handling Rules programming language extension.
My experience as an undergraduate showed me the power of good undergrad CS education to reach students (women in particular, perhaps) who have not yet realized that they want to be computer scientists! I have just been offered the position of Associate Instructor for Dr. Friedman's undergraduate programming languages course this spring and the following fall, and I look forward to the opportunity to help teach a course that I hope will excite some students as much as my first computer science course excited me in 2001.
When I say "a talented and outspoken community of programmers, some of whom were becoming increasingly involved with Haskell", the particular individuals to whom I am referring are Jesse jes5199 Wolfe, Paul stereotype441 Berry, Kim boojum Wallmark, and Josh j3h Hoyt. Thanks, you guys.