Workshop encourages women to pursue graduate studies in computer science

November 22, 2010

PITTSBURGH--Frances Allen and Barbara Liskov, the first two women to receive the highest honor in computer science, the A.M. Turing Award, will share their insights on computer science research with undergraduate women March 4-6, 2011, during OurCS, a workshop at Carnegie Mellon University.

OurCS (Opportunities for Undergraduate Research in Computer Science) will give young women an opportunity to learn about computer science research by doing. They will work on projects in teams guided by scientists from academy and industry and will then present talks on their findings.

Registration for the workshop is now open at

"This will be an intense weekend of problem solving for these undergraduates," said Carol Frieze, the OurCS chair and director of Women@SCS, an organization that promotes opportunities for women at CMU's renowned School of Computer Science. "Thanks to Fran Allen and Barbara Liskov, who will both be giving keynote talks, it should also be an inspirational event for us all."

Allen, an IBM Fellow Emerita at the T.J. Watson Research Center in Hawthorne, N.Y., won the 2006 Turing Award for her groundbreaking work in optimizing compiler techniques for high-performance computing systems, which became the basis for procedures and technologies that are widely used in the computing industry. Liskov, the Institute Professor at MIT and the first U.S. woman to earn a Ph.D. from a computer science department, received the 2009 Turing Award for her pioneering work in the design of computer programming languages, including Ada, C++, Java and C#.

It was Allen's appearance at the first OurCS in 2007 that motivated Sunayana Sitaram to travel 7,700 miles from Surat in western India to attend the workshop in Pittsburgh. "OurCS definitely convinced me that grad school is something I wanted to do," said Sitaram, who joined SCS's Language Technologies Institute this fall as a graduate student. "My favorite part was the research workshops," she said. "I had never done research in a group before. It was amazing to see different people with different skills all coming together to make contributions to the research problem."

The workshop is open to all undergraduate women in computer science. The registration fee of $30 includes all meals and hotel accommodations, though participants must pay for their own travel. Carnegie Mellon students can register for a $25 fee that doesn't include accommodations.

The importance of computation's role in the sciences in general and in society at large is growing and computer scientists are both well paid and in steady demand by employers. Yet U.S. enrollments in computer science programs have lagged, particularly among women. OurCS is designed to help undergraduates gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and rewards of computer science research.

Sarah Loos, a CMU graduate student in computer science who attended the 2007 OurCS workshop, said meeting like-minded women at the workshop had a profound impact on her. "Even though I had done research before, working in a group of seven female scientists was a wonderful experience which is unique to this workshop," she explained. "It made me realize just how important it is to recruit and retain female researchers in our field."

In addition to Allen and Liskov, speakers include Jeannette Wing, chair of CMU's Computer Science Department and formerly the National Science Foundation's assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, and Tracy Camp, interim department head of mathematical and computer sciences at the Colorado School of Mines.
OurCS is sponsored by Microsoft Research and a number of CMU entities: Carnegie Mellon Qatar, the School of Computer Science, the Microsoft Research-Carnegie Mellon Center for Computational Thinking, the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, the Machine Learning Department, the Institute for Software Research, the Lane Center for Computational Biology, the Robotics Institute and Women@SCS.

Follow the School of Computer Science on Twitter @SCSatCMU. About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon ( is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 11,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon's main campus in the United States is in Pittsburgh, Pa. It has campuses in California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico. The university is in the midst of a $1 billion fundraising campaign, titled "Inspire Innovation: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University," which aims to build its endowment, support faculty, students and innovative research, and enhance the physical campus with equipment and facility improvements.

Carnegie Mellon University is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to