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Lee awarded scholarship

Credit: Glenn Stroz/Photo Staff Credit: Glenn Stroz/Photo Staff

Carnegie Mellon student Elaine Lee has been awarded the Vanguard Women in Information Technology Scholarship for 2009 for her work in math and computer science.

Originally from New Jersey, Lee is a senior math major on the occupations research track and is looking at a minor in computer science and statistics.

“Math just made sense to me,” Lee said. Her interest in math, and specifically occupations research, sparked during her senior year of high school, where she and a partner participated in the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in 2006. Their project was about using genetic algorithms in order to solve the traveling salesman problem. At the competition, she met with the American Mathematical Society, which provided her with information about jobs for math majors once they leave college.

She was immediately drawn to the pamphlets about operations research. “They tackle interesting projects,” she said. “It’s about how to use resources as efficiently as possible.” From the math field, Lee hoped to go into whatever technical field she wanted.

Once she arrived at Carnegie Mellon, she also gained an appreciation for computer science and statistics.

The Vanguard Women scholarship grants merit-based financial aid of up to $8000 each year to any female college undergraduate studying computer science, computer engineering, web design, or any other field relating to information technology.

She first heard about the scholarship from Vanguard itself. After being turned down for an internship, she continued to receive news on their affairs. She occasionally “gets e-mails on scholarship opportunities and job opportunities.”

One day, Lee received an e-mail about the scholarship and decided to apply. She also received some information through Carnegie Mellon. To enter, she had to get a copy of her transcript in addition to completing an application. It included a personal statement of about 200–300 words in which she had to include the reasons why she should win the scholarship and what her future career plans were.

Ultimately, she would like to work for a company in which she could work on data analysis and simulation. She hopes her research could “come to some interesting conclusions that can influence the way we do things.” Lee shows particular interest in global warming and climate change. “The data just isn’t there,” she said, which she attributes to the reason so few bills on the subject get passed. “There’s not a lot of work going on in that area.”

One of Lee’s many accomplishments on campus was a computer science research project her sophomore year. As part of the Intel First Year Research Experience (IFYRE), she worked with professor Martial Herbert on new video surveillance technologies. They focused on event detection in crowded videos. Lee said, “The goal of the research was to teach the computer to identify people.”

According to Lee, the most fulfilling class that she’s taken at Carnegie Mellon is data mining, which she is taking this semester.
Part of the statistics department, the class is concerned with learning different techniques for extracting meaningful parts from large pools of information. “It was very real-world,” Lee said.

She traveled abroad during the spring semester of her junior year. She spent five months overseas at the University of Manchester, where she enjoyed the luxury of taking few technical classes and exploring Europe, including Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Italy, and France.
In addition to her course load, she’s part of the Student Technology Outreach Center on campus, in which she’s worked on a number of projects, from teaching basic courses on computing for students and adults to computer recycling.

Her plans for the award money? “Paying for tuition here,” she said.