Two PhD students attend prestigious academic career workshop
CS @ ILLINOIS doctoral researchers Motahhare Eslami and Wenxuan Zhou were among the 60 young women engineers and computer scientists worldwide who attended the 2016 Rising Stars academic career-building workshop at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) October 30 – November 1. In its fourth year, Rising Stars provides women graduate students with the mentoring and practical information they need to launch and sustain a successful academic career.
“The workshop was eye-opening,” said Zhou, who enjoyed networking and sharing experiences with many other women graduate students. “We got practical experience and tutorials on applying for faculty jobs, including how to write research and teaching statements, how to interview, and how to negotiate.”
Led by CMU faculty, the workshop also taught the young women how to navigate the promotion process and build a professional support network.
According to Eslami, one of the most beneficial aspects of the workshop for her was learning how to navigate job interviews and the hiring process. “I learned that in an interview people might ask women discriminatory questions that they’re not supposed to ask,” she explained. “For example, they cannot ask you if you have children. The CMU faculty panel told us how to handle these situations and questions appropriately.”
Each of the Rising Star participants also presented her research to fellow students, industry attendees, and CMU faculty. Another valuable aspect of the workshop for Zhou was discovering that being a professor isn’t an impossible feat.
“People think that being a professor is very daunting and you have no time to rest, but during the workshop one professor [talked about] doing three start-up companies as a young faculty member,” said Zhou, who works part time as a software engineer at Veriflow, a start-up company her advisor Matthew Caesar co-founded in 2013. “It was inspiring to know that you can do other things while being a faculty member.”
Zhou, whose research focuses on network verification and synthesis, plans to graduate in 2017, work full time for Veriflow for a couple of years, and then pursue a faculty position at a leading university.
Eslami, who works in Professor Karrie Karahalios’ group conducting research on people’s behavior with online social media platforms like Facebook, encourages her fellow CS students to attend the workshop next year or beyond.
“Besides all the things you can learn about academic careers, you might even be recruited at the workshop,” said Eslami, who recently led a headline-making study on Facebook curation algorithms that filter every user’s friends’ posts.
Applications for the 2017 Rising Stars workshop will be available in the spring. Students can learn more about the program by visiting the 2016 Rising Stars website or searching for the 2017 Rising Stars workshop in the spring—the 2017 website will become accessible once a location for the workshop has been determined.