Aimee Maurais

It’s 9:00 pm on a frigid February night in Spokane, WA, and I am an undergraduate senior sitting in a cafe with three strangers discussing inverse problems, quantum computing, and partial differential equations. (envision Nighthawks by Edward Hopper). For an introvert from the south, the surreality of the situation is ridiculous, and yet I feel at home. I’ve found my people. This interaction has stuck with me, and was just one of many over the course of my week at CSE19 as part of the Broader Engagement (BE) Program. 

The BE program opened my eyes to the opportunities before me in research, and was exactly the catalyst I needed to solidify my intent to pursue a research career. I had full access to the regular CSE19 technical programming, met professionals from various fields and career stages, presented a poster and lightning talk, and was able to clearly see my future in research, even as an undergraduate. 

While the technical aspects of the BE program were fantastic, perhaps even more valuable was the welcome to the CSE community. The group of BE participants functioned almost like a family – for most of us CSE19 was our first large conference, and approaching it by yourself can be intimidating! It was a huge help to have peers to navigate the conference and check in with to compare notes and impressions. Each of my fellow BE participants had unique experiences and interests; I greatly enjoyed getting to know them and look forward to working with them as my colleagues in the future. 

In addition to fostering community among the participants, the BE program did a wonderful job helping us feel integrated within the conference at large. Events like the diversity luncheon and panels made it clear that I am welcomed and valued in the CSE community, and this message was reinforced by the genuine friendliness of the many research professionals I met.

In conclusion, the BE program was highly impactful for me, and as a result I’m preparing to start a PhD in Computational Science and Engineering in the Fall. I’d highly recommend the BE program to any student who is interested in research but unsure of how they see themselves fitting in or what their career may look like. The BE program provides great exposure to the many opportunities in CSE, while fostering meaningful community among its participants, equipping them to shape their own futures, and the future of computational Research.

Aimee Maurais

Virginia Tech Undergraduate Student