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Cornell Workshop Encourages Minority College Students to Pursue Computer Science PhDs

Less than 3 percent of computer science PhD degrees in 2013 went to underrepresented minorities (URM): African-American, Hispanic, and Native American. Why aren’t more of these minority groups choosing to obtain higher level degrees and pursue fields in academia?

One computer science professor from Cornell Computing and Information Sciences is working to counteract these issues with a workshop aimed at minority college students that immerses them in a week of research in improving the reliability of cloud computing, where data is stored and processed in remote data centers. Cornell Associate Professor Hakim Weatherspoon, in collaboration with Howard University’s Computer Science Chair Legand Burge, has developed a SoNIC (software defined network interface) Summer Research Workshop to increase exposure and enhanced research capabilities for minority students.

Since its inception five years ago, the SoNIC Workshop has grown from 6 students to 22, all of whom receive an all-expenses-paid, week-long workshop. This year the workshop will be held June 14-20 in CIS’s brand-new Bill and Melinda Gates Hall on the Cornell campus.

During the workshop students will conduct network research with a faculty research mentor and give an oral presentation , which can also lead to future collaborations. This year students are coming from many diverse universities like MIT, Tuskegee, South Carolina and Universidad del Turabo.

“Graduating underrepresented minorities  in computer science at the doctoral degree level is important to Cornell and critically important to our nation,” said Weatherspoon. “If each workshop participant did pursue and obtain a higher degree, this single effort would increase the output of URM PhDs by up to 100%.”