Atanasoff Today: Investing in Students

In an era of staggering student debt, donor support is critical to help students reach their academic goals. This year, undergraduate and graduate students received more than $20,000 in scholarships. The individual scholarship amounts vary, but the spirit of support is tantamount.

“Diversity of thought is instrumental to effective creative problem solving,” said Maria Thompson (‘82 computer science), who established the Maria B. Thompson Innovation Maven Scholarship in Computer Science – a fund designed to empower women in computer science.

“Women computer scientists are uniquely qualified to contribute their problem definition, problem reframing, and problem-solving skills to generate practical and feasible solutions for challenging and complex global problems. An investment in women computer science graduates is an investment in a better future for all of us.”

Tracy Le, one of two 2019 recipients, said “Having the encouragement of someone means a lot to me, as it validates that I should continue on the path I am as a student and to not falter or lose hope when things may go wrong.”

For Benjamin Escobar (’20 computer science) receiving the Mark Giese Computer Science Scholarship helped him pay it forward on campus. In addition to engaging in undergraduate research and high-impact internships, Escobar co-founded the Iowa State GNU/Linux Club and a second club centered around technical interviews.

“Receiving an independent donor’s scholarship was extremely motivating as it was concrete recognition/acknowledgment of extracurricular involvement,” said Escobar. “Additionally, the donor enabled me to focus more on lateral growth and make college more than a place to simply ‘get a job’.”

Graduate students enrich the department as they pursue research with Iowa State’s distinguished computer scientists. Thanks to scholarship funds, the department recruits high-caliber Masters and Ph.D. students.

Zahra Khoshmanesh, a two-time recipient of the Robert Stewart Early Research Recognition Award, is conducting research in software development. Utilizing various tools including machine learning algorithms to detect risky combinations of features, her research detects software issues early - critical work when applied to safety systems in airplanes, medical devices or autonomous cars. 

“It does really matter for students who receive the scholarship, since the students feel great when their research is understood and appreciated by others in the university,” said Khoshmanesh. “The scholarship encourages them to continue their education and stay in the research field.”

Thank you to all of our incredible partners in helping our students thrive!


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