OurCS: A Great Opportunity for Undergraduate Research In Computer Science

This year fall break, I am lucky to have a chance to be a part of OurCS, a three-day workshop focusing on research for undergraduate women in computing field. It was held in the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University on October 18th, 19th, and 20th. Based on what I experienced, I highly recommend this program for any female undergraduate students who are interested in being a researcher later on in this field. 


All the attendees would be divided into different groups of about 5-6 people, each of which would work on a research project under the supervision of faculty or industry researchers and their PhD students. The students are assigned to the research projects based on their responses to the form which was sent out prior to the day that the workshop happened. What the students have to fill out is that they would pick their top three favorite out of all the projects. They would finally know their research projects when checking in on the first day at CMU. 


After the students all meet their groups, they would start the work by getting to know each other. The professors and their graduate students would then give a brief introduction to the projects that all the members in the team would spend three days working on. From that moment, the teams would brainstorm to narrow down the topic of their projects, raise research questions and do hands-on research problems to tackle those questions. Finally, on the last day, all teams would present their research in front of all the professors, graduate students, and other attendees. The program ended by the wrap-up about where to find a research opportunity for undergraduate students. 


During the three-day experience, all OurCS attendees stayed in shared double rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn, Oakland. Further, the meals are covered so you would not have to worry about where to stay and what to eat. Further, the buses from the hotel to CMU are provided every morning before the session and afternoon after the dinner at fixed times. However, if you prefer walking or cannot make it on the bus, it is only a 10-15 minutes from the hotel to CMU. 


Why did I enjoy and also suggest you, the female students in the computer science field, this opportunity? The reason is that my interest lies in doing research related to Computer Science, and this program seems to be a good chance for me to see how the research process looks like and also what would be like if I am working as a team while conducting research. In other words, OurCS, for me, is a preparation for me to step into the research path. About the project that I was a part of, my teams interacted with Kuri, a small family robot, to see how we can develop its behavior to support the social communication.


Further, you would have the opportunities to meet and network with others who have things in common with you since all the attendees are women in tech. For example, you can ask a girl from another college how the computer science program there looks like, or if they are more experienced than you, you can ask about their experience and how they can find the research opportunities. Moreover, there are two keynote speakers presenting their career in computing, as well as a graduate panel, where current CS graduate students discuss "The Graduate School Experience". The speech from the keynote speakers and the discussion from the graduate panel gives the participants opportunities to learn about graduate school and life after graduation. Also, the participants have a chance to present their research posters, which is a great experience for those who already conducted research. Other attendees can walk around, ask questions about the research presented on the poster to learn more about how the research is conducted.


I had so much fun within the three days being a part of an amazing team in a wonderful program that I wish I would have a chance to comeback next year. Last but not least, Pittsburgh, where CMU is located, is a beautiful city, so please don’t miss a chance to visit some places after the farewell ceremony of OurCS. 


Below are some photos from my time with OurCS and Pittsburgh:


Breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn


The hotel that we were staying in


The little cute robot that my team worked with


How we brainstorm ideas and build up storyboards


A corner of CMU


Pittsburgh on a sunny day in the fall is so pretty