Please provide your lab and description of research.Caitlin Kelleher's lab. Our research area is computer science education. My current research is focused on analyzing how students build and debug code that is intended to solve a specific problem. Through this analysis, we want to be able to answer questions like "what types of learner behaviors are productive and what types are unproductive?" and "which students could use some help, and when is the best time to intervene?"
Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?
I've had an interest in computer science education for many years: Both the teaching aspect, and the aspect of developing tools and content for teaching CS. While I worked in the software engineering industry, I took as many opportunities as I could to engage in CS education. This has allowed me to do many cool things, like building puzzle-based learning tools for middle schoolers, taking two semester-long rotations to teach CS in universities, and even trying to build an innovative app that teaches beginners how to code.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that if I want to devote my full time to this kind of innovation — figuring out new ways to use computers in teaching computer science — I need to go into research. So, here I am!
Why did you pick WashU?
I was picking universities based specifically on the CS education research groups, and Dr. Kelleher's work seemed like the most interesting and the most similar to the type of thing I wanted to do.
What was your favorite course and why?
I think probably Bayesian Machine Learning. It was the most challenging course I've taken so far, because I have a relatively limited background in machine learning. It was really interesting, and I feel like I learned a lot. I also really enjoyed the project I ended up working on in that class.
Who is your favorite instructor and why?
That's a really hard question. I've really liked most of my instructors so far! I've been really impressed by how much emphasis and knowledge seems to go into how they teach the material, not just what they teach: how to make it engaging and interesting, how to order and explain things so they make the most sense, how to adapt to the current class.
What advice would you give to a new student?
As a student — especially a grad student, but this also applies to undergrads — you are responsible for managing your own work-life balance, more so than you would be in a regular job as an "adult." No one but you is fully aware of how much work (classes, side projects, clubs) you've currently taken on. Be your own advocate. Don't burn yourself out but, at the same time, try to get as much learning as possible out of this experience. Good luck!
What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
Definitely the zoo, especially the sea lion show! But then, I'm a bit of an animal behavior nerd. I also really like the rest of Forest Park. It's huge and varied, and it’s fun to zip around on a scooter or wander around on foot.
Where are you from?
So many places! Originally, Russia; most recently, New Jersey.
What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?
Bear Adventures, theoretically. They organize outdoorsy trips that sound really cool, though I haven't actually made time to go on one yet.
Do you have any work history?
I worked at Google for six years as a site reliability engineer, software engineer, internal start-up co-founder, plus a couple of short rotations as a CS instructor.
Before that, I also worked as a general programmer for four years in a climate research organization (though I did not do any of the climate research).
Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?
What are your plans for the future?
For the next four-or-so years, my plan is to stay right here and do really cool research! After that, I'm not sure. I definitely want to continue being in or around the CS education field. So far, I'm leaning toward staying in academia.