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Computer science graduate student wins best poster at Ohio computing conference

Bennett Leckrone and Colleen Carow | Mar 4, 2019
Photo by: Becky Grasser

Computer science graduate student wins best poster at Ohio computing conference

Bennett Leckrone and Colleen Carow | Mar 4, 2019

Photo by: Becky Grasser

A computer science master’s student at Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology won the chance to attend a national conference after placing first in the poster competition at the 2019 Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing conference (OCWiC).

Kristen Masada, BSCS ’18 (Honors Tutorial College), who attended the event with a group of Russ College women, received a $1,000 scholarship at event, held Sat., Feb. 23, in Huron, Ohio, to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Florida this fall.

“I’m excited to be able to share my work at such a large conference, and to be able to meet many other women who are in my area,” said Masada.

Masada, whose poster was titled "Chord Recognition in Symbolic Music: A Segmental CRF Model, Segment-Level Features, and Comparative Evaluations on Classical and Popular Music," is studying how machine learning can segment music into a sequence of chord spans. Experimental results show that the CRF method outperforms previous approaches to automatic harmonic analysis.

Held biennially, OCWiC is gives young women the opportunity to explore careers in IT, network with other young women, and meet mentors. This year’s event featured keynote speakers, a career fair, and opportunities for women in computer science to share their work and research.

Cindy Marling, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, organized the attendance of the Russ College group, which comprised 10 students.

“We were a big presence,” she said. “We’re trying to combat what they call the ‘shrinking pipeline’,” Marling said of the challenge of recruiting women to computer science. “People enter the field, but they don’t feel comfortable, so they leave.”

According to Marling, women comprise around 17 percent of computer science undergraduates nationally.

For Masada, the event helped to highlight the problem – and provide support.

“Most female computer science students are only one of a handful of other women who are in their major at their university,” said Masada, whose research adviser is Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Razvan Bunescu. “Though events like OCWiC only last for several days, they have a lasting impact on the students who attend them. This is the second time that I have attended the conference, and each time I go, I realize that there are so many other women who are pursuing computer science degrees and dealing with the same experiences as me.”

Jordan Zenisek, a fourth-year computer science major, said the event reminded her that while women do remain a minority in the field, it doesn’t mean that they’re alone.

“My most important takeaway was to just make your own path,” Zenisek said. “It doesn't matter what other people think you should be doing, you've got to just go your own way. It was just really nice to know that with hard work you can make it through barriers and be successful."