Atanasoff Today: Finding success in computing

Aubrey Sijo-Gonzalez is a force to be reckoned with. As an honors student majoring in computer science, Chair of the Student Advisory Council, and the recipient of several scholarships, Sijo-Gonzalez is as special as they come.

Sijo-Gonzalez is a senior undergraduate student in computer science. Prior to her time at Iowa State, Sijo-Gonzalez went to high school in West Des Moines. Her roots, however, are in General Santos, Philippines, where she lived until 2011. Sijo-Gonzalez attributes much of her inspiration to her upbringing.

“I had a very happy childhood,” Sijo-Gonzalez said. “Those moments are some of my happiest. I’ve always said that if I could grant a wish to every child, it would be to have a childhood like mine. I was raised by my mom and my grandparents, which is a common family dynamic in the Philippines. No matter the situation, my family was there for me and I always felt very supported.”

While in high school, Sijo-Gonzalez was first taught about computer science. Although she didn’t immediately realize that computer science was the right fit for her, she called her decision more of a practical decision.

“I took a computer science class out of pure interest and it turned out I wasn’t too shabby so I gave it a shot,” Sijo-Gonzalez said. “I stayed in this field because at some point it became more personal. Computer science allowed me to do more things than I ever thought I could do. I was discovering parts of myself that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.”

During the college selection process, Sijo-Gonzalez looked into other universities with good programs but ultimately chose Iowa State University after an on-campus tour. The things that appealed to her were the math and science assistance programs as well as the plethora of scholarships available.

“The emphasis on scholarships really showed me that Iowa State was willing to invest in my education,” Sijo-Gonzalez said. “The financial assistance alleviated the burden for me and my family, so it was very valuable to me.”

While at ISU, Sijo-Gonzalez has been an active member of the student body. She spent a semester volunteering for the Queer, Trans, People of Color Organization, helping with community outreach events and networking events. She also became a member of the Department of Computer Science’s Student Advisory Council in her sophomore year, eventually becoming the Council Chair.

“It’s been quite exciting being the Chair of the committee, I’m really eager to impact the department,” Sijo-Gonzalez said. “I’m thankful for a strong council that can count on one another.”

Not only has Sijo-Gonzalez been successful academically and in her extracurriculars, but she has also gained a wealth of professional experience that she will take with her to the workforce. In the spring semester of her freshman year, Sijo-Gonzalez was matched with a research mentor. She worked for a start-up company through the ISU Research Park where she worked to help develop software that would help organic certification for Iowan farmers. After that, she started her first internship at a private insurance company as a web developer intern.

Most recently, Sijo-Gonzalez worked for Nationwide as an app developer intern. During her internship over the summer, Sijo-Gonzalez was offered a full-time post-graduation position with Nationwide which she accepted. Sijo-Gonzalez said she is thankful for the foundation her education at Iowa State gave her.

“The computer science courses at Iowa State were rigorous enough that they gave me a strong foundation that I’ve been able to apply professionally,” Sijo-Gonzalez said.

Her advice to incoming computer science students? Pace yourself.

“Try to find what best suits you and try not to be too concerned with one perspective,” Sijo-Gonzalez said. “Be open to new things and find what works for you.”