One of the many exceptional aspects of TJ’s program is the number of high-level classes and clubs catering to students interested in computer science. Pooja Chandrashekar, TJ ’15 (right, with Courtney Wallace of iStrategyLabs, and below with Computer Systems Lab Director Shane Torbert and Principal Evan Glazer), has taken full advantage of these curricular and extra-curricular opportunities, even contributing a few of her own. Recently, she was recognized with an Award for Aspirations in Computing from the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) and was selected as a 2014 Stanford She++ Include Fellow for expanding horizons for younger girls.
Pooja founded ProjectCSGIRLS, an initiative that aims to encourage more girls to learn and develop a passion for computer science. ProjectCSGIRLS features a competition that challenges middle school girls to use technology to ameliorate a social problem. Last year’s winners were honored at a gala event at GMU, which included guest speakers discussing their experiences as women in technology. In addition to GMU, iStrategyLabs and the Thiel Foundation also sponsored the initiative. Pooja is now leading teams of high school and college girls from around the country in the hope of taking her DC area program national, which would make ProjectCSGIRLS the largest national computer science competition for middle school girls.
Pooja, who has taken TJ’s AP Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence 1&2 courses, and will take Parallel Computing 1&2 during her senior year, is an active member of TJ’s Coding Lady Colonials club and is involved in CS Ed Week. As a sophomore she founded the Bioinformatics Society as a forum for examining the integration of biology with computer science through weekly activities, computational modeling competitions, and guest speakers. As club President, she initiated an effort to enrich the STEM curriculum of a school for economically disadvantaged students in Pune, India. In addition, she has for two years led the Middle School Girls Math Circle at GMU and has also founded and run two semester-long game programming workshops at GMU for middle-school girls, for which she received a NCWIT grant and recognition from Microsoft.
The 35 female high school students chosen from a pool of 2,300 applicants as Award for Aspirations in Computing national winners were selected for their computing and IT aptitude, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education. As for her plans, Pooja’s are unsurprisingly ambitious: She intends to major in both neurobiology and computer science in preparation for a career in medicine with a focus on the ways in which computer science and technology can be applied to solving problems in the medical field.