Life is about climbing hills.
Tour Das Hugel
I am a 3rd-year CS PhD Student studying Natural Language Processing at the University of Pennsylvania.
I am so very proud to have Dr. Chris Callison-Burch as my PhD advisor and Dr. Emily Falk as my collaborator advisor from the school of Annenberg for Communication. I would like to take a brief moment to acknowledge my mentors and letter writers: Dr. Benjamin Martin from Texas State University in San Marcos, TX and Dr. Robin L. Garrell from University of California at Los Angeles. Without their dedication and support, my path to graduate school would not have been possible. I am also an NSF GRFP Fellow and could not have had this 2nd-lease on life without the financial resources and support of the National Science Foundation. Daughter to Mexican immigrants of indigenous-Aztec descent, I am a 1st-generation U.S. Citizen, the first in my family to be attending University, and the first woman to be educated in our family in over 4 generations (that we have record for). Before joining Penn, I grew up and finished school in Austin, TX with a BSc. in Chemistry and worked in the private sector for 7 years (KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD!!!).
My decision to cross over from Chemistry to pursue Computer Science came about at one of my prior places of employment where I was introduced to Data Analytics using SQL while working for a Start-up company. I worked with large data sets and maintained their database to bring formula/pathogen traceability to their finished product when I had no formal SQL or Database training. I found fulfillment in Data Analytics and it brought purpose to where I was once feeling a lack of job satisfaction before. From this moment on, I knew I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to Computer Science.
PhD Student in Computer Science, Anticipated May 2023
University of Pennsylvania
MS in Computer Science
University of Pennsylvania
BS in Chemistry
Texas State University
AS in Computer Science
Austin Community College
AA in Spanish
Austin Community College
Goodbye Austin, TX!!! This is my official farewell as I start a new beginning in the historic city of Philadelphia, Pennslyvania…
When it comes to applying to grad school, I think I win the award for the world’s biggest emotional roller coaster. A handful of my closest friends know the intimate details of all the highs and lows leading up to grad school, suffice it to say it’s been crazy.
I come from a long history of women in my family that were often forced to quit school due to the psychological and cultural shackles that come with the cycle of poverty. My paternal grandmother cannot read or write and my maternal grandmother didn’t finish a middle school level education. My Dad also experienced the worst oppression in poverty because he was the only one in his family that wanted to pursue an education. Unsupported and discouraged, he was subjugated to abuse and child labor, tossed around distant family members’ households to even non-relatives to get through the 5th grade. Later, my dad stayed with a non-familial couple who owned a pharmacy in order to pursue high school. Then, his parents decided to leave Mexico and move to the United States without him, even though they knew he still needed to finish secondary. The pharmacists took my Dad in and tasked him with opening and closing the store everyday and building maintenance in exchange for housing him. To this day, my Dad wishes he could find the pharmacists that helped him get through school, but when he moved to the United States he never saw them again. After high school, my Dad gave up a full scholarship to medical school in Monterrey to be reunited with his parents thinking he would have the ability to continue his education in the United States only to be held back by the naturalization process.
Always keeping in the back of my mind the adversity in my family’s past and the poverty cycle I come from, it’s taken me this long to finally figure out where God was opening doors for me. After applying early last year and what felt like an eternity waiting, I was notified in April that I was one of a handful of students that won the Nation’s very coveted NSF Graduate Research Fellowship out of 12,000 applicants. Like a gust of wind my circumstances changed…
You have heard it been said, “true happiness is being content with what you have,” but I believe this couldn’t be farther from the truth! True happiness is being passion-driven! True happiness is risking EVERYTHING to be free from all barriers, forces, and cultural paradigms fighting against you. And more broadly, true happiness is trusting God… you have to humble yourself, ask for forgiveness, and ask God to help you change your circumstances every day until He listens. In a perfect world, your effort might be enough, but there is only ONE who is above all things who can intercede for you in this fallen world and extravagantly change your circumstances for the better. “Every good and perfect gift comes from God above, whom does not change.” James 1:17 “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15
And so it is with great enthusiasm I embrace a new beginning in Philadelphia where I will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to get my PhD in Computer Science… I’ve had to endure much dearness to get to this point in my life, but for me that means the value I place on receiving this NSF Fellowship is more palpable for me than just a grateful feeling and an opportunity I will live out fully every day as I’ve had to with every hardship leading me here. I had to submit a college video essay to one of the grad schools I applied to and thought I’d share “how it all began.” This is my Cinderella story…