Elissa Redmiles : Human Factors and Computer Science

Elissa Redmiles, an accomplished PhD student here at the University of Maryland, is working on getting more women into Computer Science.
By Alex BenDebba

Elissa Redmiles may have started in Chemistry, but she found a home in the Computer Science Department.  After taking CMSC131, she made the switch.  Not long after, she became a TA for the class, which started her on her path to focusing on Computer Science Education.  The following summer, she became an instructor at the Digital Media Academy, where she taught Java programming, web design, and mobile app development.  

Working with Dr. Jan Plane as she progressed through her major, she helped launch the Maryland Center for Women in Computing.  Elissa and a team of undergraduate students (Allie Abad, Izzy Coronado, Sean Kross, and Amy Malone) developed Curriculum in a Box -- a free set of Computer Science courses for middle schoolers.  The project was funded by the ACM SIGCSE Projects Grant in 2013. The courses included twelve animated videos to teach students about HTML/CSS.  Elissa also compiled a set of relatable Computer Science role model profiles.

Elissa has also worked with Dr. Samir Khuller on Rideshare as an undergraduate.  Rideshare was a research project aimed at developing and implementing a taxi share and carpool system.  She worked on a team, designing and implementing matching algorithms and creating a comfortable environment for users.  After working with the team, Elissa wrote a thesis paper summarizing and analyzing the results, compiling a list of design considerations to improve the comfort of potential users of the service.  "[Doing research with Dr. Samir] was one of the best mentorships," she explained.  "He was willing to let me play around with things, and not be boxed into a particular definition of what computer science is."

While still in undergrad, she did a Co-op with IBM in the summer after her sophomore year.  Elissa was the sole developer of AutoExpurge -- an automated tool for removing files from jobs from the Rational Build Forge database.  She was also the project lead for Rational Build Forge and Rational Automation Framework e-kits.  

After graduating in 2013, she was a staff writer for the Computer Science Department.  She wrote several articles for the Spring 2014 edition of Shell Magazine (a pdf can be found here).  

The following year she returned to IBM, pursuing marketing instead of software development.  She chose it over a project management position because she enjoyed writing and applying the design thinking process she learned from HCI to fields outside of Computer Science, and wanted to try out something new.

Now back at Maryland for her PhD, she is trying to find out the same thing everyone wants to find out -- how do we get more women in comuter science?  Working with the Digital Media Academy once more,  Elissa has "been working with them, looking through their curriculum and making guidelines for teachers, TAs, and even administrators on how to better train instructors to motivate girls, or how to respond to questions girls might have in class, and how not to do anything that might further inhibit them both in coed and singler gender classrooms."  It is tricky work, but something she has been interested in delving into ever since she switched from Chemistry to Computer Science.

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