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Judy Weng

Courtesy of Judy Weng

Engineering senior Judy Weng has been working alongside Penn professor Chris Murphy to better understand the lack of diversity in the field of computer science despite its rapidly increasing popularity across majors.

Weng became interested in the subject when she took CIS 399, an open software development class Murphy taught earlier this year. Upon realizing that open source coding can serve as a resource to underrepresented minorities because of its collaborative structure, she began to work with Murphy to look deeper into the issue. 

In doing so, her aim was to identify and combat causes that have discouraged underrepresented minorities from getting involved with computing. 

"Five causes were identified as potentially discouraging underrepresented minority students from studying computer science: stereotype threat, imposter syndrome, little sense of belonging, lack of diversity in representation, and a misconception of computer science and technology," Weng wrote in a Medium post published by the School of Engineering and Applied Science.  

Her research led her to study different pedagogical approaches other educators have used to decrease the diversity gap within other majors. Weng realized that open source software development could potentially spark the same result within computer science. 

“For example, to counter stereotype threat and imposter syndrome, the key was to increase students’ confidence in the field, which my peers and I noticed within ourselves as we took the open source software course,” she said. 

Upon completing her research, Weng organized a group discussion session with professors Jan Pearce from Berea College and Nanette Veilleux from Simmons College at the Tapia Conference, which promotes and celebrates diversity in computer science. 

“While working on my senior thesis and coming to the Tapia Conference, I met so many other people who are passionate about solving the diversity gap," she said.

"I heard people share their knowledge and stories, and I had a chance to raise awareness to a potential initiative that could help others like me who once felt discouraged."