Google awarded Barnard College a $18,000 unrestricted gift through exploreCSR for the 2020-2021 academic year to support Barnard students in pursuing graduate studies and research careers in computing. Dr. Adam Poliak and Dr. Sarah Morrison-Smith, Roman Family Fellows in Computer Science, will use the award to launch Barnard BEARS: Better, Enhance, and Advance Research Series, a workshop series preparing Barnard undergraduates for opportunities in Computer Science research.

The workshop series will provide Barnard sophomores and juniors in computer science and related majors opportunities to build a self-sustaining and supportive community of peers interested in CS research; understand the ins and outs of CS research and academia;  seek out mentors and develop professional relationships; and prepare to apply for and excel in a graduate program. BEARS is a year-long series where students will participate in faculty talks, small group discussions, and hands-on tutorials. 

Students will hear from different women who are part of the CS faculty at Columbia and Barnard discussing the open problems in their subfields, an overview of their research programs, and advice for undergraduate women interested in CS research. 

Participating students will be divided into small groups grouped based on their common research interests. Each group will be led by a current woman CS PhD student specializing in the group’s interest area. Each group will meet once a month to discuss topics about the CS research experience, such as 1) applying to grad school; 2) imposter syndrome; 3) effective collaboration; 4) sexism and racism at work; 5) differences between research and classwork; 6) how to connect with faculty for research opportunities. 

“Dividing students into smaller pods led by women CS PhD students will help create tight-knit support groups while connecting students with a role model in CS research that has shared lived experiences,” said Poliak. Morrison-Smith added, “Women often play an outsized service role that tends to go unrecognized. The award enables us to pay and further recognize the role that these female CS PhD students will play in building a supportive network that encourages Barnard students to pursue careers in Computer Science research.”

The workshop series will also include hands-on tutorials focused on technical research skills not covered in a traditional CS curriculum. These tutorials will be run in coordination with the Vagelos Computational Science Center’s popular workshops. In coordination with Barnard’s Summer Research Institute (SRI), the exploreCSR award will help fund Barnard undergraduate summer research in computer science. 

Professor Rebecca Wright, Druckenmiller Professor and director of Barnard Computer Science and the Vagelos Computational Science Center, says “Computer Science is a rapidly growing major at Barnard, and we’re very excited about the opportunity to expose these students to research, encourage them to consider careers in computing research, and give them the knowledge and tools to take the next steps."  

Barnard is one of 50 schools to receive an exploreCSR grant from Google this year. For more information about the grant and other awardees, visit the Google blog announcing the 2020-2021 winners.