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UofSC AI Institute sends three students to national women’s cohort

By Abe Danaher | February 10, 2020

Three members of the UofSC Artificial Intelligence Institute were selected to participate in the 2020 CRA-WP Grad Cohort Workshop for Women at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside in New Orleans, Louisiana, from April 16 – 18.

The workshop will provide Revathy Venkataramanan, Utkarshani Jaimini and Ananya Banerjee the opportunity to network with and learn from 20 senior female researchers and professionals in the field of computing. Throughout the three-day conference, the three students will discuss how to survive graduate school, the research they are working on, and navigating the predominantly male field of computing. They will also hear from the event’s keynote speakers Maria Gini, Julia Hirschberg and Susan Rodger.

“Typically, you would only know people around you, in your lab, class or school,” Jaimini says. “CRA-WP conference is an opportunity to go out of your inner-circle, communicate with others about your research, and at the same time get to learn about their work. It is an amazing networking opportunity to talk and learn from a few of the top women working in STEM research. I think it will also open opportunities for future collaborations.”

Both Jaimini and Venkataramanan are doctoral students of the AI Institute’s founding director, Amit Sheth, and Banerjee worked as an intern with the research group during the 2019 fall semester. Their research focuses on applying AI in health care, with Jaimini’s research focusing on how artificial intelligence can help asthmatic pediatric patients better manage their asthma and Venkataramanan researching how AI can help patients with Type 1 diabetes and hypertension with respect to diet.

Despite half the graduate students in Sheth’s research group being women, the field of computer science is still predominantly male. According to the National Science Foundation’s indicators, women received only 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2015. Jaimini, Venkataramanan and Banerjee see this CRA-WP cohort as an opportunity to learn how other women deal with the challenges this gender disparity creates. More than anything, they look forward to seeing that they are not alone.

“I think it will be great,” Jaimini says. “You get to learn about the challenges faced by others. You are not alone in it. There are people out there who have gone through similar experiences and have risen out as diamonds. You become more aware of your surrounding and learn to speak up for yourself.”

For Venkataramanan, the workshop will provide proof that anything is possible, regardless of gender or upbringing. She is the first college graduate in her family and comes from India where, she says, women’s education “isn’t that strong.” She expects the upcoming cohort to motivate her to continue on her path.

“Seeing these sorts of people will motivate me that it’s not just certain people in the world who can achieve success, it’s like, anyone can do it,” Venkataramanan says. “It shows the great heights that women can also reach.”

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