Liang Zhao, CS alumnus, named in the Top 20 New Stars in Data Mining by Microsoft

Liang Zhao, computer science Ph.D. alumnus, has been named one of the Top 20 New Stars in Data Mining, provided by Microsoft searching.  Microsoft searching mines the past 6 years of Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD) submissions and combines the big data from Microsoft to then achieve the ranking by an automatic algorithm.

Zhao was advised by Dr. Chang-Tien Lu, professor in the department of computer science at Virginia Tech.

Liang Zhao is an assistant professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology at the Volgenau School of Engineering. He is also affiliated with the Department of Computer Science. His research interests include data mining and machine learning, with particular emphasis on social media modeling, feature selection, and text mining. He has led the papers in prestigious conferences and journals including ACM SIGKDD, IEEE ICDM, SIAM Data Mining, PLoS One, and IEEE BigData, and served as the reviewer for leading conferences and journals such as ACM SIGKDD, ACM TKDD, IEEE ICDM, SIAM Data Mining, ACM TIST, ACM SIGSPATIAL, and Geoinformatica. He also owns two US IP discloses on social media mining.

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CS graduate student participates in the 2016 Global Perspectives Program

Mohammed Seyam, computer science graduate student, was one of four students among the latest group of Virginia Tech Global Perspectives Program scholars who visited and studied programs at universities in Switzerland, Italy, and France for 13 days earlier this summer.  They and their fellow scholars researched trends and issues in higher education, teaming up with peers at the universities of Basel and Zurich in Switzerland.  After returning to the United States, the Global Perspective scholars presented their findings at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, D.C., continuing a tradition established in 2010.  Noha ElSherbiny, computer science graduate student, also participated in the program last year.

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Tapia 2016 through the eyes of 11 Hokies

From September 14th -17th, 9 CS students and 2 CS faculty (Cal Ribbens, Barbara Ryder) journeyed to Austin, Texas to participate in the 2016 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing.  Of the approximately 1000 attendees, 536 were students, 135 were faculty and 260 were representatives from industry/government.  This was the 10th Tapia Conference whose theme, Diversity Matters, was reflected in keynote speeches, professional development programs, a student research poster session, a career fair, and “birds-of-a-feather” meetings on practical approaches to supporting diversity and inclusion.

Our two goals in attending Tapia were to: (i) expose CS@VT African-American and Latino/a graduate and undergraduate students to a professional computing conference in which they would be in the majority, and (ii) actively recruit minority graduate students for our MS/Ph.D. programs and for possible future faculty positions.

Dr. Ryder reported, “It was a thrill to personally meet and talk to so many African-American and Latino/a colleagues in computing, including several of our CS@VT alumni – Dr. Cheryl Seals (Auburn), Dr. Jeremy Barksdale (Microsoft), Dr. Kevin Buffardi (Cal State, Chico) and CS@VT Distinguished Alumna Dr. Jamika Burge.”  Dr. Ribbens stated: “The Tapia conference is a great opportunity for our students to meet peers and hear from incredible role models, and for faculty to share ideas and enthusiasm with other schools who are also committed to improving diversity in CS.”  The excitement of our student participants is expressed in their comments:

  • Sean Crenshaw: “Tapia gave me the opportunity to network with the best in the tech industry who are transforming current standards so that we, the next generation of minorities, can follow in their footsteps.”
  • Jazmine Zurita: “The conference was the perfect way to network with recruiters, more so than we can in standard career fairs.”
  • Gustavo Arango Argoty: “The most interesting aspect of the conference was to see how big companies develop computing applications to understand society and hence its diversity.”
  • Vanessa Cedeno: “Being able to meet other people with the passion of promoting and including diversity in Computer Science was exciting and inspiring.”
  • Souleymane Dia: “It’s been one of the best opportunity for me to directly interact with industry leaders and connect with them for future opportunities.”
  • Moeti Masiane : “The conference was a wonderful venue for networking, placing players from academia and industry in a fun and open environment.”

CS students Moeti Masiane, Tianna Woodson, Kelvin Aviles, and Teresa Lin also attended.  This was a great experience.  It continues a strong tradition of CS@VT participation in the Tapia conferences (we have been Gold Supporters of Tapia for many years).  We hope to offer the opportunity to attend to more of our students and faculty in future years.  To that end, alumni and friends of CS@VT can donate to the department’s Barbara Ryder Diversity in Computing Fund by sending a check to the VT Foundation account #861127.



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New Endowed Fund to Support Diversity in Computer Science

The Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech is pleased to announce the establishment of the “Barbara Ryder Fund for Diversity in Computer Science.”  This new endowed fund honors the outstanding personal efforts and culture-changing example of Dr. Barbara Ryder, J. Byron Maupin Professor of Engineering, who served as CS Department Head from 2008 to 2015.  Initial seed funding for the fund comes from the prize accompanying the department’s recent National Center for Women and Information Technology Extension Services Transformation (NCWIT NEXT) award, which was given in recognition of progress and continuing commitment to increase the participation of women in computing.  Under Dr. Ryder’s leadership the department’s focus on recruiting and retaining a diverse community of students, staff, and faculty increased significantly.  By establishing this fund, the department is committing to a sustained emphasis on diversity.  Income from the Ryder Fund will support an exciting range of activities and programs for years to come.

To donate to the Barbara Ryder Fund for Diversity in Computer Science, please visit our Giving to CS@VT page.



Graduation at VT 2016 - 10



Distinguished Lecture 2015 015



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CS PhD Students Attend CRA-W Grad Cohort Workshop

The CS Department sent a group of eight women PhD students to the 2016 CRA-W Grad Cohort Workshop this year.  Doaa Altarawy, Sorour Amiri, Mai Dahshan, Michelle Dowling, Zahra Ghaed, Azam Moosavi, Elaheh Raisi, and Ziqian Song traveled to San Diego in April to participate in this two-day event organized by the Computing Research Association.  The annual workshop is aimed at building the pipeline of senior women in computing-related studies and research.  Presentations and discussions led by senior researchers and professionals offered advice on a variety of topics such as graduate school survival skills, networking, publishing, etc.  According to VT attendee Elaheh Raisi, “… resources introduced related to different skills such as presentation, writing, and research for graduate studies.  There were some female professionals as mentors and we could talk to them and ask for their help about any problem we might have.”  Doaa Altarawy reported that she was able “ … to learn more about networking and to actually practice it by knowing new women in computing, [and] to see examples of successful women who were able to overcome difficulties and boundaries and reach their goals.”   Michelle Dowling added, “the atmosphere was wonderfully relaxed and focused heavily on interacting with the audience and addressing specific concerns that people had, all while promoting networking and mentoring opportunities.”




CRA-W Grad Cohort

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CS@VT team wins NCWIT’s 2016 NEXT Award



Virginia Tech’s Department of Computer Science (CS) has been honored with a 2016 National Center for Women and Information Technology Extension Services Transformation (NCWIT NEXT) award in recognition of their progress and continuing commitment to increase the participation of women in STEM education and careers.

“We are currently engaged in a visioning initiative to guide the university into the future, considering how we will prepare our students to solve complex problems, address global issues, and live and work in an increasingly diverse and interdependent world,” said Tim Sands, president of Virginia Tech, in his nomination support letter for the team. “Increasing the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM fields such as computer science will be critical to meeting those challenges.”

The collaborative Virginia Tech CS team tied for second place with University of Texas at Austin and includes members: Libby Bradford, director of undergraduate studies; Greg Farris, academic and career advisor; Scott McCrickard, associate professor; and Barbara Ryder; the J. Byron Maupin Professor of Engineering; and Cathy Brawner, extension services consultant.

Funded by Google, the award program commends past and present extension services for undergraduate programs for excellence in recruiting and retaining women in computing, as having the most significant impact on the long-term goal of increasing the number of women in information technology and other computing-related fields. Awards will be presented at the NCWIT Summit on May 17, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Under Barbara Ryder’s leadership as former CS department head (2008-2015), CS increased the percentage of female CS majors from 4.2 percent in 2007 to 16.7 percent in 2015 and doubled the 2-year average percentage of female CS graduates since 2011 from 5.2 percent to 10.3 percent. In addition, from 2008-2015, the CS faculty has diversified from 10 percent female tenure-track professors to 21 percent. Ryder joined the Virginia Tech community in August 2008 and within one year, the department had established a diversity committee to coordinate and intensify recruiting strategies. “We are commited to diversify our CS student body and faculty,” said Ryder. “By partnering with NCWIT in various recruiting/retention activities with sister CS departments across the country and concerned IT industry representatives, we have been able to achieve progress towards our goal.  I am proud of the participation of CS faculty, staff, and students in this effort.”

In November 2009, the program began working with Brawner, who assisted in formulation of goals and metrics for recruitment of female CS students and became an inaugural member of NCWIT Pacesetters. Partnerships were formed three years later with the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and the CoE Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED), to participate in the NCWIT Expanding the Pool grant to support joint recruiting of female students by both departments.  Bradford, Leslie Pendleton, ECE director of student services, and Susan Arnold-Christian, associate director of CEED, led the program to broaden institutional participation at Virginia Tech in order to recruit more women in computing disciplines.

As part of their 2015 strategic plan, the department remains committed to addressing issues of diversity in faculty and student body. Through their proactive efforts in strengthening retention practices, especially for female students given the propensity for attrition seen elsewhere, they achieved comparable retention rates for males at 94 percent and females at 93.5 percent. The program seeks to expand with aggressive and realistic goals over the next three years, as outlined as follows:

  • to strengthen student women’s groups;
  • to support student travel to diversity in computing conferences;
  • to promote student self-efficacy through curriculum/pedagogy changes;
  • and to build a sense of community among female computing students.

Research confirms that self-efficacy of underrepresented groups in computing can be encouraged through experiences in key areas including the opportunity to watch, interact, and learn from viable role models in the field.

Allison Collier and Kara Vaillancourt, both juniors in computer science with minors in meteorology and mathematics respectively, are student ambassadors for CS and attend STEM events throughout the state of Virginia in anticipation of engaging potential students to stimulate pursuit of a computer science education. “Being a part of the department is truly inclusive,” said Vaillancourt. “Last year I spoke 200 high schools students in northern Virginia about studying computer science at Virginia Tech and the positive impact it has had on my life. I also attended an exciting outreach event called Women in Computing Day, put on by the Association for Women in Computing chapter at Virginia Tech, which encourages middle school girls to get involved with technology.” Vaillancourt and Collier each won a National Award for Aspirations in Computing in 2013. As stated by NCWIT, “Award recipients are selected based on their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing; leadership ability; academic history; and plans for post-secondary education.”

Future plans for the CS department include increasing interaction between their alumni and enrolled students, forming more alliances across the College of Engineering to include the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, and widening their focus to target recruitment of minority students as well as increased percentages of women.


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Barbara Ryder (front), Scott McCrickard (left), Greg Farris (middle), Libby Bradford (right)
Barbara Ryder (front), Scott McCrickard (left), Greg Farris (middle), Libby Bradford (right)

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AAUW Wytheville branch sponsored STEM Saturday Workshop

The AAUW Wytheville branch sponsored a STEM Saturday Workshop for middle school girls on Saturday, November 7, 2015 at Wytheville Community College. Five members of Virginia Tech’s Association for Women in Computing (AWC) student group participated. Marina Kiseleva, Michelle Becerra, Vanessa Cedeno, Christy Coghlan and Abigail Bartolome led two workshops during the day. The first workshop, entitled “Design Your Own Story & Watch It Go!”, taught the participants how to create a movie or a game. The second workshop, entitled “Algorithms — how to instruct a computer to do things?”, allowed participants to learn how to describe a problem and solve it as a computer would.


From L to R: Abigail Bartolome, Vanessa Cedeno, Christy Coghlan, Marina Kiseleva, Michelle Becerra and Barbara Ryder.
From L to R:
Abigail Bartolome, Vanessa Cedeno, Christy Coghlan, Marina Kiseleva, Michelle Becerra and Barbara Ryder.


STEM Saturday Workshop pic 1 STEM Saturday Workshop pic 2 STEM Saturday Workshop pic 3 STEM Saturday Workshop pic 4 STEM Saturday Workshop pic 6 STEM Saturday Workshop pic 7

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5th Annual Aspirations In Computing Awards

As part of an effort to encourage more young women to choose careers in technology, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and the Virginia/DC Affiliate Award for Aspirations in Computing program recognized 25 high school women for their accomplishments and aspirations in computing and technology.  The award event was held at the Microsoft facility in Reston, Virginia, and featured a keynote talk by Ms. Natalie Singh, Director of Microsoft Enterprise Services Sales for the US Department of Defense.  The event was co-chaired by Dr. Kelly Shaw, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of Richmond, and Ms. Libby G. Bradford, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Computer Science at Virginia Tech.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is a program of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a coalition of over 450 universities, corporations and organizations dedicated to increasing the meaningful participation of women in computing. The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing was created to acknowledge the computing aspirations of young women, introduce them to leadership opportunities in the field, and generate visibility for women’s participation in computing-related pursuits.  Award-winners have been selected for their outstanding aptitude and interest in computing and desire to pursue computing-related studies. The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program is sponsored nationally by AT&T, Bank of America, Bloomberg and Microsoft with additional support from Google, Intel, Motorola Solutions Foundation and Northrop Grumman.

“It is a joy to recognize the computing and technical accomplishments of these outstanding young women from Virginia and the District of Columbia.  The knowledge, skills, and experiences they have already acquired are impressive as is their desire to share their passion for computing with other students and the community.  They are inspirational,” said Dr. Kelly Shaw, VA/DC co-chair.   In the Virginia/DC Affiliate’s five-year history, 174 students have been recognized.

Chinell Callwood, a teacher at Heritage High School Governor’s STEM Academy in Newport News, received the 2016 Outstanding Educator award from the affiliate.

Student winners are:

First Name Last Name School
Kathleen Ascrizzi Langley High School
Juliana Bain Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Zainab Balogun Albemarle High School (Virginia)
Julia Burks Battlefield High School
Emilia Cabrera Woodson High School
Macallan Cruff New Horizons Governor’s School
Quiana Dang Marshall High School (Falls Church VA)
Rupali Dhumne Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Celine Estrada John Champe High School
Madeline Feigles Stone Bridge School
Kiran Girish Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Sydney Hatton William Monroe High School
Kavya Kopparapu Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Jessica Lu Deep Run High School
Elizabeth McPherson Colonial Forge High School
Sydney Nixon West Potomac High School
Neejole Patel Briar Woods High School
Paige Rutherford Deep Run High School
Sophie Salomon Western Albemarle High School
Aditi Takle South Lakes High School
Sasha Volodin Washington-Lee High School
Michele Wang Oakton High School
Yunyun Wang Hidden Valley High School
Corinne Williams Maret School
Emily Xu Manassas Park High School


Student runners-up are:

Mahnoor Asad South Lakes High School
Anusha Basana Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Crystal Cheung McLean High School
Katherine Cinnamon Forest Park High School
Henrietta Clarke St Catherines School
Trishina Crawley Appomattox Regional Governor’s School
Keenah Cuaycong Stone Bridge High School
Deepshika Dhanasekar Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Namita Dongre Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Phaith Dunlap-Tunnage Heritage High School (Newport News, VA)
Isabelle Gallagher Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Elizabeth Hu Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Navya Kalale Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Alexandra Kemper Jamestown High School
Anusha Khan Freedom High School (South Riding, VA)
Satvika Kumar Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Jamie Lee Patriot High School
Sieun Lee Marshall High School (Falls Church VA)
Tian Low Woodbridge High School
Alexis Marra Jefferson Forest High School
Jamie Marie Pangilinan Battlefield High School
Hojung Park Albemarle High School (Virginia)
Britney Phan Oakton High School
Iram Sharieff Gar-field High School
Laura Sizemore Lake Braddock Secondary
Hannah Snesil Deep Run High School
Lauryn Tideo Granby High School
Michelle Wu Princess Anne High School
Regina Yap Langley High School


The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing offers both national and local affiliate competitions to generate support and visibility for women’s participation in communities nationwide. The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) works to correct the imbalance of gender in technology and computing because gender diversity positively correlates with a larger workforce, better innovation, and increased business performance.

The “Aspirations in Computing Awards” event and the gifts received by the winners this year were funded by Bank of America, Eastman Chemical, Fidelity, NetApp, Northrop Grumman, SWIFT, The Washington Post and Virginia Tech.  Additional support was provided by Accenture, BEL Network Integration & Support, Deloitte, Level 3 Communications, and Microsoft.  Winners receive prizes from multiple companies and two trophies: one for the winner and one to be displayed at her high school.

For more information on the Aspirations program please visit


Standing: Vanessa Barlow (National Winner from Virginia), Sydney Hatton, Kavya Kopparapu, Sydney Nixon, Corrine Williams, Elizabeth McPherson, Madeline Feigles, Aditi Takle, Sasha Volodin, Jessica Lu Seated: Celine Estrada, Sophie Salomon, Michele Wang, Quiana Dang, Rupali Dhumne, Emily Xu, Zainab Ayoade Balogun
Standing: Vanessa Barlow (National Winner from Virginia), Sydney Hatton, Kavya Kopparapu, Sydney Nixon, Corrine Williams, Elizabeth McPherson, Madeline Feigles, Aditi Takle, Sasha Volodin, Jessica Lu
Seated: Celine Estrada, Sophie Salomon, Michele Wang, Quiana Dang, Rupali Dhumne, Emily Xu, Zainab Ayoade Balogun


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18th Annual Women in Computing Day

The Association for Women in Computing (AWC) hosted the 18th Annual Women in Computing Day on Friday, April 1st.  About 80 middle school girls from five area schools attended. This  year, Abigail Bartolome and Angel Pak co-chaired the event. Marina Kiseleva (AWC chapter president), Jisu Park (AWC chapter vice president), and Deborah Tatar (AWC faculty advisor) were also instrumental in making the event successful. A special thanks is due to our friends from IBM who offered their time, to professor Wu Feng who led one of the demonstrations, and to all the graduate and undergraduate student volunteers.

Click here to read about the 2015 event.



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Southeast Women in Computing Conference (SEWIC)

Dr. Barbara G. Ryder and 18 CS@VT undergraduate and graduate students attended the Southeast Women in Computing Conference (SEWIC) in Atlanta, Georgia November 13-15.  Congratulations to Sorour Ekhtiari Amir who won first place in the Graduate Research Poster category.  Her poster is entitled “DASSA: Automatic Segmentation of General Time-Stamped Data Sequences “.  Sorour along with Liangzhe Chen and B. Aditya Prakash co-authored the poster.  For more information about the conference, please visit SEWIC.



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