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Communications of the ACM


Exciting Follow-up With an ACM-W Scholarship Recipient

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Valerie Barr

Valerie Barr, Professor of Computer Science, Union College

In 2006, ACM-W established our scholarship program, which supports women CS students who want to attend research conferences. Today ACM-W awards between $20K and $40K per year, depending on funding, giving students either $600 or $1,200 per conference, depending on whether intercontinental travel is involved. This program is supported by 18 of the 36 ACM SIGs. These 18 SIGs provide complementary conference registration and a conference mentor to our scholarship recipients. (We would love to have support from the remaining 18 SIGs -- check our scholarship page for the full list and more information on the scholarship program).

The other day I was asked, very last minute, to attend a meeting in place of someone who couldn't make it. When I got there, I started looking down the participant list. I was absolutely delighted to see the name of one of our very first scholarship recipients. Back in June 2006, we awarded a scholarship to Vetria Byrd, who was then a Ph.D. student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Vetria had applied for a scholarship to attend the Life Sciences Society Computational Systems Bioinformatics Conference.

After attending the conference, Vetria sent in her report, saying "The conference...was a great learning experience. ...In addition to student presentations and poster sessions the conference included several invited speakers who are considered experts in their respective fields. It was nice to hear and see authors of papers that I have read in my literature review...As a doctoral student in the midst of refining my dissertation topic, attending this conference at this time in my academic career gave me the opportunity to talk with leaders and up-and-coming researchers in the field about what they feel are much needed areas for continued research...."

Today, Dr. Byrd is Executive Director, Advanced Visualization Division, Clemson Computing and Information Technology, at Clemson University. She already has received several grants. One award was from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to set up an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) site focused on Undergraduate Research in Collaborative Data Visualization Applications. Her second award was to host the first CRA-W/CDC Broadening Participation in Visualization (BPViz) Workshop. This was followed by another award from the NSF to fund the workshops for two additional years. These workshops bring together undergraduate and graduate student participants, as well as early career faculty, with a goal of bringing women and members of underrepresented groups into this exciting area of computing. For more information, you can read Dr. Byrd's Computing Research News article about the first workshop.

It was exciting to meet Dr. Byrd and see first-hand that she has started the next phase of her academic life. I expect that soon ACM-W will be processing scholarship applications from her students, and we wish her ongoing success.


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