Computer science majors Ellen Galperin ’15 (Warminster, Pa.) and Franceska Xhakaj ’15 (Vlore, Albania) attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing last fall in Baltimore, Md. The largest technical conference for women in computing, it brings together women from across the country to discuss their work and ways that they can further contribute to the field.
“Upon starting my major, it did not take long to realize that being a woman in a male-dominated field is not easy,” says Xhakaj. “Taking part in the conference made me understand that despite the challenges, the most important thing is to always be enthusiastic and never get scared or give up. The many successful women that I met at the conference are perfect examples and role models that encourage me to overcome the difficulties and improve my skills.”
For Galperin, the conference opened her eyes to possible career paths and opportunities.
“I was able to secure an internship through an interview at the conference for Vanguard financial firm’s IT department this summer, and I hope to use it to explore that particular path,” she says.
On campus, Galperin and Xhakaj have worked together with Chun Wai Liew, associate professor of computer science, through the EXCEL Scholars undergraduate research Program. Their research involves the economic game Diner’s Dilemma.
In the game, players at a hypothetical dinner table, where the total price of the bill will be divided, choose to order an expensive or cheap meal. Ordering the cheap meal will benefit all, while the expensive will benefit the individual player. Using an iterated version of the game, Galperin and Xhakaj are trying to predict past choices by examining past outcomes. This explores how hidden Markov models and the Viterbi algorithm can be used to infer the missing information. With more research this type of technique could be used for businesses to figure out the choices and decisions of their competitors.
“Research with Professor Liew has been incredible,” says Galperin. “He has a hands-on approach that really forces Franceska and I to solve the problems we encounter and to learn from them, all while giving helpful advice. This has given us real-world experience. After talking to women already in research at the conference, we realize this is exceedingly useful this early in our careers.”