June 8, 2023
UNC Computer Science is excited to welcome the 2023 cohort of the UNC-Intel Research Experience for Undergraduate Students (REU) Program. The program, designed to foster the next generation of computer science researchers, offers participants valuable hands-on experience, industry connections, and a deep understanding of the exciting possibilities within academic research. This year marks the second year of the program at UNC Computer Science, and the cohort has doubled in size from the inaugural 2022 program.
Led by the efforts of Associate Professor Cynthia Sturton, the REU Program works to serve historically excluded identities in tech by offering the opportunity to explore a career in research from both the academic and industry perspectives. Sturton shares, “Our goal is access. We give participants real-world research experience that is inclusive, equitable, and supportive of students and the identities they hold. We want them to know they belong in the world of computer science research.”
Kimberly Brown, from Greensboro, North Carolina, is a rising junior at UNC-Chapel Hill. After graduation, Kimberly hopes to pursue a doctorate in computer science.
Muna Lentison, from Poca, West Virginia, is a rising junior at Marshall University working toward becoming a software engineer.
Andrew Lockard is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying computer science and applied mathematics. Hailing from Harrisburg, North Carolina, Andrew hopes to work in systems programming or general software development.
Madukaife Okafor is a rising junior at George Mason University from Virginia. Madukaife’s goal is to become a much more experienced and developed software engineer to work on his own projects.
Rutva Mehta is a rising junior from San Diego, CA, studying computer science at Virginia Tech. She is interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning, with a long term goal to work in autonomous systems using AI/ML and deep learning.
Giving students the opportunity for an insider view
Throughout the UNC-Intel REU Program, participants will delve into workshops in different areas of computer security, including systems security, hardware security, and privacy. Intel will provide connections to industry mentors, researchers, and developers. The goal is for students to make meaningful connections between academia and industry, exploring ways in which research experience and a doctoral degree could propel their career forward.
Additionally, the 2023 cohort will attend weekly workshops focusing on the foundations of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles. “We are working to give these students tools and resources to advocate for themselves and others of historically excluded identities,” states UNC CS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Lead Briana Scurry. “They are entering environments and spaces that have historically not been designed to welcome, develop, and retain them. Our goal is to set them up for success.”
Isil Anakok, a Ph.D candidate in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, is serving as a DEI intern and REU program coordinator. She shares her enthusiasm, stating, “For many, research is an unknown entity, and students don’t always consider it a viable next step in their career. I am thrilled to offer these students a glimpse of the possibilities that a career in research holds, whether in industry or academia.”