November 8, 2018
Jean Salac was born in Singapore to Filipino immigrants and moved to the US when she was 15. She received her BS from the University of Virginia and is now pursuing a PhD in computer science with a focus on human-computer interaction (HCI) and computer science education. We interviewed her about her experience at the University of Chicago.
Why did you choose UChicago?
The main reason I chose UChicago was my advisor, Prof. Diana Franklin. I was very interested in one of her projects, Comprehending Code, which researches the relationship between reading comprehension and code comprehension. I was also excited to live in Chicago for reasons that range from the diverse food and arts scene to the cheap and convenient public transit.
What noteworthy academic, research, or teaching activities you have pursued while at the UChicago?
I worked on a paper that received honorable mention at the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI) conference. I also have papers in submission to the Journal of Engineering Studies and the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE). More importantly, however, I was able to help a major metropolitan school district improve their elementary computer science curriculum. I hope to continue to do so with more school districts throughout my graduate career.
Outside of the lab, I earned the Graduate Student Leadership Recognition Award for my work in creating a welcoming environment for female-identifying students in my department.
What activities do you participate in outside of the classroom?
Within my department, I lead the Graduate Women in Computer Science (GWiCS) organization, which aims to provide a community of support and advocate for female-identifying graduate students. I also serve on our grad student board as diversity and inclusion representative to advocate for female-identifying and minority students.
Outside my department, I am on the planning committee for the Transcending Boundaries Research Symposium, a student-run conference that highlights the research of graduate students of color throughout the university. I am also a member of Graduate Recruitment Initiative Team (GRIT), which aims to recruit and retain diverse grad students in STEM.
On a lighter note, I love playing intermural sports!
What are your plans post-University of Chicago?
After my PhD, I hope to work in computer science education policy.
What support have you received at the University of Chicago?
I have received immense support from UChicago Grad regarding fellowship applications and career advice. I have also found the Center for Identity+Inclusion to be a great resource; they have plenty of incredibly useful events where you can get advice and tips for obstacles you face at UChicago.
If you were speaking to a prospective student, what would you tell them about UChicago?
I would tell them to find a community as soon as they reach UChicago. Graduate school is a grueling process (anyone who tells them otherwise is lying), but it becomes immensely easier when you have people who have your back.
I would also tell them to take advantage of the UChicago Arts Pass, which provides free or discounted admission to museums and shows all over Chicago and is a great way to explore the city and take a break from work.
I would suggest looking out for talks and lectures outside of their department as well -- interesting talks happen on campus all the time. I frequently attend events at the Institute of Politics, International House, the Law School, and the School of Social Service Administration.