Meet the U Chicago student who wants to use tech and coding for archaeology

Tessa Hamermesh
Published in
3 min readOct 25, 2017


In her spare time, you’ll find Julia Oran either coding on her laptop or digging up dirt in the desert.

The atypical senior computer science student at University of Chicago juggles two passions: technology and archaeology. But unlike many students her age, Julia is already working with local nonprofits through TechTeam, a student club that uses technology to create change in the local government and community, and other programs like the Google Community Leaders Program.

Although her resume might reveal her coding experience, it can’t explain her passion for seeing the big picture behind digital projects. She wants to use technology to enact change in a variety of fields, including archaeology.

“I am a little quirky, which maybe the combination of tech and archaeology alludes to that, but it doesn’t necessarily come across,” Oran said. “Your resume is a list of things you’ve done, but doesn’t tell anyone about who you actually are.”

Last summer Oran traveled to Israel with a group of UChicago students for an archaeological dig led by husband and wife team David and Sandy Schloen. David is a professor at the University of Chicago, and Sandy works at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago’s museum.

The excursion lasted four weeks, during which they used a database Sandy specifically developed to maximize efficiency during an archeological dig. That’s just one aspect of digital archaeology: some companies are even replicating archaeological sites destroyed by ISIS through pictures, and printing 3D models of them.

It’s this kind of technology that lights Oran on fire — the kind that’s really making a difference in the world. On campus, Oran lives out this passion as an executive member of TechTeam.

“TechTeam is really [about] going out there and helping people in the community NOW instead of waiting until someone comes up with something better to do,” Oran said.

TechTeam has two main focuses: accessibility and action. Although it’s one of UChicago's technology-oriented clubs, TechTeam members are not all senior computer science students like Oran. The eclectic group of of UChicago students are united by their passion for technology, and their mission to use it to create positive change. Last year, Oran was the Program Development Director, so she handled all of the new-member education. This year, Oran is the a Board Chair of TechTeam at the Institute of Politics, for whom she uses her team and tech experience to encourage growth in the organization as a whole.

“Ideally, down the road, I would love to do something in civic tech. So basically anything where you’re using tech for good, it’s not just to make the latest app or some silly thing, but actually improving someone’s life with technology.”

It's witnessing this incredible application of technology that inspires Oran. Whether that’s recreating destroyed archaeological sites digitally, or working with the community to instill change, Oran has found her niche in making a difference through blending her two seemingly opposite passions into one, incredible field.

#BeforeTheDegree #StudentVoices #Innovation #WomeninSTEM

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