“When I entered for the welcome reception it was all the women at the table, and how often does that happen? It was amazing,” said Neeraja Yadwadkar, a postdoc at Stanford University. Yadwadkar was one of 90 participants who attended Rising Stars in EECS, an intensive workshop for women graduate students and postdocs who are interested in pursuing academic careers, which was held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from October 29 to November 1, 2019.
In addition to boasting the largest cohort of Rising Stars participants to date, the 2019 edition of the annual workshop introduced innovative events and sessions to bring new opportunities to early-career women in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and computer science.
“It’s been really great to come here, connect with the women, share our experiences and understand all the tips and tricks for actually going through this process,” said Natasha Jaques, a PhD student at MIT.
New in 2019, running in tandem with eight workshop panels that covered topics ranging from finding faculty jobs to establishing a healthy work/life balance, participants were also offered a variety of professional development resources. “With the Rising Stars Career Center, we really wanted to try to allow participants to personalize their workshop experience to best meet their professional and career needs,” said Illinois Computer Science Department Head Nancy M. Amato, who co-chaired this year’s workshop with AMD Jerry Sanders Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Wen-mei Hwu.
Participants were able to sign up for one-to-one mentoring as well as opportunities to update their professional portrait and record a short video about their research highlights. In addition, all participants were able to receive feedback about the first eight minutes of their job talks, a key factor in extending Rising Stars 2019 by a half day.
“This year in particular, they’ve come up with such innovative ideas. The Research Pitch Competition, the job [talk] starts - the initial eight minutes which is like the hardest part. They have put this whole program together in a real friendly environment,” said Yadwadkar.
The workshop’s Research Pitch Competition was a highlight of the 2019 event. Participants were invited to give a 90 second presentation introducing their research and its impact to mentors, faculty members, and fellow Rising Stars participants.
Four winners (two CS-related and two ECE-related) were chosen and will be invited back to Illinois to present their talk to either the Illinois Computer Science or ECE ILLINOIS Speaker series depending on their research focus.
Winners of the Rising Stars in EECS 2019 Research Pitch Competition included:
- Natasha Jaques, “Social and Affective Machine Learning” (MIT)
- Pardis Emami Naeini, “Privacy and Security Label for IoT Devices” (Carnegie Mellon University)
- Shuang Chen “Managing Interactive Cloud Services on Current and Future Server Platforms” (Cornell University)
- Elahe Soltanaghaei, “Sensing the Physical World Using Pervasive Wireless Infrastructure” (Carnegie Mellon University)
Launched at MIT in 2012, the annual event has since been hosted at the University of California at Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, and Stanford University. This year’s event was co-hosted by Illinois Computer Science and ECE ILLINOIS.