The UT Dallas Computer Science Department’s Grace Series Lectures ushered in the 2016 New Year this February with featured speaker, Dr. Qiong (Jo) Zhang, a PhD UT Dallas Computer Science Alumna and research scientist at Fujitsu Laboratories of America. The Grace Series talks are a lecture series that deliver insight into the role of women in today’s technology fields by having female technologists provide the talks. The talks aim to provide inspiration to female graduate and undergraduate students studying computer science and software engineering at UT Dallas.
The Grace Series features talks by the UT Dallas Computer Science faculty, UT Dallas CS alumni, and other distinguished female technologists. Drs. Pushpa Kumar, Janell Straach, and Linda Morales, conceived the idea of the UT Dallas Grace Series attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) Conference a few years ago. The conference, fittingly named after the woman who helped pioneer computer programming, Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, involves a series of presentations designed to bring research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. Every year, GHC brings together the community of women technologists, the best minds in computing spotlighting the contributions of women to computing. The UT Dallas Computer Science Grace Series lectures are fashioned after the GHC Conference format.
Before handing the floor over to Dr. Jo Zhang, Drs. Gopal Gupta, Pushpa Kumar, and Janell Straach, UT Dallas CS faculty members delivered individual opening remarks. Dr. Gupta opened the session by speaking on the importance of this series in addition to introducing Dr. Zhang. Following Dr. Gupta, Dr. Kumar spoke on the importance of female empowerment amongst the female population and most importantly among women in technology. Dr. Straach presented her “Eyes through a Digital Diva,” where she shows only the eyes of an important woman figure in technology and makes guests guess to whom the eyes belong by listing notable qualities and accomplishments of the person behind the eyes. At this talk, Dr. Straach used United States Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Megan Smith as the digital diva.
At the February 9th Grace Series, Dr. Qiong (Jo) Zhang, UT Dallas CS PhD graduate, delivered her talk titled, “Empowering Women Distinguished Lecture: The Pros and Cons of Being a Female Engineering PhD.” Dr. Zhang began her talk by sharing information about her herself, starting with her education. Dr. Zhang received an M.S. degree from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2000 after having completed a B.S. degree from Hunan University, China in 1998, both in Computer Science. Subsequently, she received her Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2005. After completion of her PhD, Dr. Zhang took a position of Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Applied Computing at Arizona State University from 2005 to 2008. Subsequently, in 2008, she joined Fujitsu Labs of America as a Research Scientist.
During her talk, she spoke of her journey from PhD student to accomplished research scientist, including the pros and cons of obtaining her PhD in a male-driven field. She asked the audience if they, as women studying in technology, had ever been asked the question “You are a beautiful lady! Why do you want to get a PhD degree?” This question began an open friendly discussion amongst students, faculty, and Dr. Zhang. Dr. Zhang pointed out an important fact saying, “For the fourth year in a row, women have earned a majority of doctoral degrees. We as women are special. We are more creative, quick learners, improve team performance, and we are more confident.”
Towards the end of her talk, Dr. Zhang offered a few helpful tips on how to be both successful and happy. She instructed everyone to remember to be strategic in their work, show appreciation, be open to collaboration, communicate clearly, market yourself and your research, reward yourself because you deserve it, help others without expectations of return, be grateful, and be peaceful and happy with oneself.
Dr. Zhang is an accomplished researcher; she has won awards within her field including Fujitsu Labs President’s Award for 2011 and 2015, and has received 3 best paper awards: IEEE GLOBECOM 2005, IEEE International Conference on Optical Network Design and Modeling (ONDM) 2005, and IEEE International Conference on Communication (ICC) 2011. Dr. Zhang’s research interests involve optical networks, network design and modeling, network control and management, and distributed computing.
From the left: Dr. Linda Morales, Dr. Janell Straach, Dr. Jo Zhang, and Dr. Pushpa Kumar
Students attending the first Grace Series talk for 2016.
About the UT Dallas Computer Science Department
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 1,600 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,100 master’s students, 160 PhD students, and 80 faculty members, as of Fall 2015. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.