Three Luddy students are among 82 finalists for the NCWIT Collegiate Award.
Three students from the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering are among the finalists for the 2021 National Center for Women & Information Technology Collegiate Award.
Emma Cai, Maram Muhsen, and Sarah Robertson were one of 82 finalists for the award, which honors the outstanding computing accomplishments of undergraduate and graduate students who self-identify as women, genderqueer, or non-binary. The award recognizes technical contributions to projects that demonstrate a high level of innovation and potential impact.
“Being named a finalist for the NCWIT Collegiate Award is a tremendous honor for these three students,” said Dennis Groth, the interim dean of the Luddy School. “We pride ourselves on providing research opportunities for all of our students, and it’s great to see the high level of work being conducted by Emma, Maram, and Sarah recognized by such a prestigious organization.”
Cai, a computer science major, was recognized for her project, “Deicing Robot on High Voltage Wire,” while Muhsen, who is pursuing a degree in intelligent systems engineering, was selected for her work, “Folic Acid Supplementation Rescues Valproic Acid-Induced Developmental Neurotoxicity and Behavioral Alterations in Zebrafish Embryos.” Robertson, also a computer science major, earned a spot on the list with her project, “Construction of Cancer-Associated circRNA-miRNA Networks.”
Cai’s effort was a project task to construct and program a robot for the exclusive purpose of deicing high-voltage and large-capacity power lines which are built in icy and snowy areas with prohibitive access, relieving the expense of using energy-inefficient short-circuit current melting methods or the alternate manpower-draining mechanical method, which employs a ground crew and pulley system.
“I am thrilled to be chosen as a finalist for this award,” Cai said. “I would highly encourage other women in the field to take advantage of the resources and networking possibilities provided by NCWIT across multiple universities. I believe women of all races and ethnicities have a strong role to play in the future of computational science.”
Robertson focused on how two different types of RNA—long-non-coding RNA (lncRNA) and micro RNA (miRNA)—interacted within normal brain tissue and cancerous brain tissue, or glioblastoma, to see if they could be potential biomarkers for cancer within brain tissue. She found that some miRNA interacted with various lncRNA more (and some interacted less) in the cancerous tissue than in the normal tissue, therefore affecting the gene expression throughout the cancerous brain tissue.
“Being named a finalist is meaningful because it is a personal recognition of all the work I have previously done in computing and a reminder that I’m doing good work in the field,” Robertson said. “NCWIT is really great because we can always use more women in the fields of technology, computing, and engineering, and to be part of an organization like that is really eye-opening and inspiring.”
Muhsen studied the neuronal toxicity of an epilepsy drug called “Valproic Acid” in zebrafish embryos. Valproic acid is one of most commonly prescribed medications for epileptic pregnant women, but fetal exposure to valproic acid increases the risk for birth defects, including neural tube defects, as well as learning difficulties and behavioral problems. Her project investigated the neurotoxic effects of VPA exposure using zebrafish as a model organism and concluded that zebrafish are a promising model to study VPA-induced neurotoxicity and to screen for countermeasures.”
“This recognition is exceptionally meaningful for me since the competition was high and among leading universities,” Muhsen said. “This will also encourage me to work harder and have bigger dreams. As a woman of science, this is special to me because things like this prove that women are able to achieve anything.”
The winner of the 2021 NCWIT Collegiate Award will be announced in late March 2021.