July 12, 2010
Jeremy Craig, 404-413-1357
ATLANTA - America must master computer science to succeed in the global economy. And that can't happen unless the talents of everyone, including women - who only represent 11 percent of the bachelor's degrees awarded in the field - are added to the mix.
Georgia State's Stefanie Markham and Mary Hudachek-Buswell want to change that.
"It is so critical now that more women enter the field," Markham said. "Technology is everywhere. We'd like to help more women realize their natural aptitude for computing and as they do so, it will change the face of technology."
In order to get the next generation of pioneering women in computer science, the sparks of interest in the field really start in middle and high school. And that's difficult to do when the overwhelming messages from society make the field seem uncool.
"The impression is that it's about a group of guys sitting around all day and night playing videogames," said Hudachek-Buswell. "What girl wants to do that?"
But young women use technology all of the time to communicate - from texting on cell phones to updating status messages on Facebook.
"If there is a gadget that they love, and they are drawn to using these all of the time, computer science really is for them, and it's something they should consider," she added.
The computer science doctoral students are leading the effort to encourage women in the field by taking leadership roles through serving as local co-chairs of the 2010 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference to be held Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.
The event will bring thousands of women together to celebrate the contributions of women in computing, to present research and to have an opportunity to network with other women in the field.
Industry also benefits from having women at the table. Numerous corporations will attend the conference, looking to recruit women as part of their teams.
"They're really seeking out women," Hudachek-Buswell said. "They say that a technical product produced from a team composed of men and women is much more comprehensive than one that is produced from a single gender team. They don't have to worry about getting a good product, because you have a team that looks at it from different angles."
Both are forging ahead with new paths in research as well. Markham, a Brains and Behavior fellow of GSU's Neuroscience Institute and an adjunct professor at Southern Polytechnic University, is researching image processing and visualization, as well as innovative computer science education. Hudachek-Buswell is researching superfast algorithms that have applications in signal and image processing.
Markham, who was once an electrical engineer, a software programmer - and even a chiropractor - came back to the field in recent years and entered the program at Georgia State. Hudachek-Buswell, a mathematician by training, is earning her doctorate to meet requirements as an instructor at Clayton State University.
The road hasn't been easy for either of them, both non-traditional students while raising their families. They both were once at a point when they wanted to quit, but the GSU computer science faculty urged them to stay on.
"Raj Sunderraman, the director of graduate studies, took the time to talk with us and gave us sound advice that was pertinent to our respective situations, which kept us both from quitting the program," Hudachek-Buswell said.
They also credit their research advisors, Michael Stewart, Saeid Belkasim and Ying Zhu for their encouragement and direction, as well as the support of department chair Yi Pan.