Virtual labs where doctors and prosthetic designers can collaborate in the same “room.” Touch screen interfaces for cars. Robots that work with autistic children. Sequencing the genome of cancer cells.
These are just some of the projects that the 2013 Palantir Scholarship for Women in Engineering finalists are working on. These nine women were invited to visit Palantir’s Palo Alto headquarters on February 28 for a full day of demonstrations, interviews, panel discussions, and a tour. The event was meant to offer a taste of what a modern, collaborative working environment looks like, as well as a sampling of the kinds of issues involved in Palantir’s work. After a long day of conversation and discovery, the finalists and their Palantirian hosts were inspired by the variety of meaningful work being pursued by women in computer science and STEM fields.
The finalists in a session with Angela Muller
Palantir initially established the scholarship in 2012 to support underrepresented populations in computer science. This year the scholarship extended eligibility to women in all the STEM disciplines, from computer science to engineering, life sciences, and more. The goal behind this expansion was to provide opportunities not only to potential developers, but to women in all technical fields who might build or rely on technology like Palantir’s in their labs or elsewhere in their work.
With this broader perspective in mind, the scholarship essay prompt this year asked applicants to choose a data set and describe how they might analyze it to find insights into how best to promote opportunities for women in technology. This year’s winner, Eugenia Gabrielova, suggested using the GitHub Archive data to analyze patterns of women’s contributions to software projects and to build mentorship networks. A third year Ph.D. student in Information and Computer Science at U.C. Irvine, Gabrielova is no stranger to the challenges scoped out in her proposal—she was the only woman in her graduating class at Northwestern to receive an engineering degree in Computer Science. She credits faculty members for treating her as an equal, not a special case. “They never pushed me to ‘represent ladies in C.S.,’” she said, “They met me where I was.”
Each of the finalists approached the scholarship with unique academic and professional interests, but they all shared a passion for supporting and nurturing women’s contributions in technology. Meena Boppana, an undergraduate at Harvard, started a math club for girls in low-income charter middle schools in response to the frustration she felt as the only girl on her own high school math team. Grace Gee, also at Harvard, is starting a national college initiative to help recognize and reward women involved in technology. She hopes her initiative will do for others what a similar program did for her as a high school student looking for ways to explore opportunities outside of her small hometown in southeast Texas.
The Palantir Scholarship for Women in Engineering is just one small part of a larger, growing movement to support women in technology. This movement stands to benefit not just individual women and their careers, but their professional and academic communities as well. “By excluding women, we’re missing a huge brain trust,” said Henny Admoni, a finalist and first-year Ph.D. at Yale University. Palantir is therefore pleased to congratulate all of its finalists on their achievement and commitment to their respective communities.
The 2013 Finalists. Back row, left to right: Kayo Teramoto, Annie Liu, Tracy Ballinger, Henny Admoni, Edna Sanchez; Front row, left to right: Grace Gee, Preeti Bhargava, Eugenia Gabrielova