Jessica Lee, a junior majoring in computer science, is one of four Carnegie Mellon University students selected to receive a 2020 Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded to sophomores and juniors who show promise as leaders in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.
Lee, along with CMU biological sciences major Cassandra Bishop, neuroscience major Shiv Sethi and math major Noah Stevenson (all juniors), is among 396 recipients this year from across the United States. Each university is allowed to nominate no more than four students to the Goldwater program; it is unusual for any university to see all four nominees selected.
Given by the federally endowed Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, the award provides up to $7,500 per year for tuition, fees, books, and room and board.
Lee belongs to the School of Computer Science's Student Advisory Council and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computer vision and machine learning. Her goal is to develop techniques that make machine learning algorithms more efficient, scalable and explainable — similar to how a human brain is able to learn quickly.
Obtaining a Goldwater scholarship, the most prestigious STEM scholarship for undergraduates, promises to be a big help in attaining those goals, she said.
"It's definitely hard to convince your parents to be on board with pursuing a Ph.D. instead of finding a job after graduation that pays a lot more," Lee explained. "However, the Goldwater enables student researchers to both be recognized for their work and to encourage them to pursue a research career in the future by getting involved in a nationwide community of researchers."
She is leaning toward a career in industry, but hasn't ruled out an academic career.
Lee is one of 50 math and computer science majors and among 203 women to receive 2020 Goldwater scholarships.