Lavanya Verma: WIC Active Member Spotlight

Meet Lavanya, an Active Member in Fall 2020 and now WIC Intern!

Our Women in Computing active members are fabulous, intelligent people, so we’re doing member spotlights for you all to get to know them better! First up, meet Lavanya!

Introduce yourself!

I’m a sophomore from Warren College majoring in Computer Science. Currently, I’m in India and that’s something different from everyone. But other than coding, I love to paint and have been painting since I was five. I’ve also been learning how to rock climb since I joined college!

How did you get into CS? What is your journey?

I got into computer science by first learning Scratch, I loved making that little cat dance! I was really motivated by the fact that there are really small villages in India and there are lots of problems there. One of the issues that I saw was that there are these daily wage laborers that had to on a route to get their grievances addressed. By doing that, they had to forego a day’s wages, so they wouldn’t go and get their problems addressed.

My dad was in administration services, so I heard about it a lot. I decided why not just make a website for them that they can use to address their grievances? I took the project to the National Informatics Center and they really liked it! I ended up working on the website with a team. It made me really happy because I could see how it was affecting people. It was online and everything, so it was perfect.

Over the summer, I made an occupancy tracker app because of COVID so everyone would know when it was safe to go to a shop. There were a crazy amount of people at shops and I just wouldn’t do go to them. I decided, why not just make an app for it? It was useful because the shopkeepers could stay updated on how many people there are. Users could use the app and see a list of all the shops in the nearby area and all the information about them.

Honestly, I’ve just been getting into app development lately, I made another app at a hackathon. Right now I’m doing WIC’s Fall Dev because I haven’t worked with iOS before!

When did you join WIC and what made you join? What do you enjoy about being a part of WIC?

I actually knew about it before I joined UCSD and it was honestly one of my major deciding factors. When I was deciding between colleges, I was looking if they specifically had a club for women in computer science. I went through WIC’s website and saw everything that they did! I talked to a few seniors about their experience with WIC, and they all said really amazing things about how it gave them amazing opportunities and how they could even get recruited. And it really spoke to me, I even wrote about it in my application. I registered for the newsletter a week before I even joined UCSD.

As soon as I started, I attended the events. I remember speaking to Priyal and other board members at the time and it was really nice. Talking to them about ERSP (Early Research Scholars Program) guided me because I knew about opportunities in college and was able to apply to those programs.

I wasn’t super involved with the club freshman year because I was trying to graduate in 3 years which meant 5 classes every quarter; I was taking it way too fast. But after summer, I told myself I was definitely going to be more involved with clubs from then onwards, which is why I’ve been trying my best to attend as many events as I can, get all of the exposure, and meet new people.

What has been your favorite WIC event so far and why?

Something I could relate to was the EDGE mentorship program that we’re doing. In India since 2017, we go to small districts in India, in my state only, and we teach coding to the government schools in India that are not as well off compared to the public schools. They don’t have that much infrastructure and great professors. We do summer classes over there to teach coding to kids from middle school to high school kids. I’ve been doing that for a long time! I started off as a small assistant teacher and now I teach my own classes there.

With the restrictions on being an international student, I was really happy when I got to know what the mentorship program, EDGE, was and it was something I could really relate to. With the pandemic and everything in India, we weren’t able to conduct anything this year. Trying to increase the diversity in STEM is something I can relate to so I definitely love EDGE.

Where do you see your involvement with WIC going in the future?

I joined the BPC committee as well and signed up to be an EDGE mentor. I would just love to be involved in some way where I can help more people. It can really help people get over their first year with all the great advice from seniors.

WIC really helped me get more comfortable with everything and become more confident, so I’d love to do that for other people too. When I joined CS, I saw the number of boys and the experience they had at the start and I felt like I didn’t know enough. But meeting everyone felt great because they all feel the same way, so you become each other’s support system.

What do you want to do with computer science in the future?

The whole medical field and bioinformatics are very interesting to me. I’m currently doing ERSP under Professor Niema and he’s amazing! The research is on COVID as in a lot of analysis relating to the health action plan for that. I wanted to go with a computer science degree at the start because I can explore everything and then work towards a specialization.

I’ve been interested in machine learning in general and did a few projects here and there. I want to work in ML, in a job that relates to the medical field. I have seen many problems in India that can be helped by that. There is a really great project that Google started about diabetic retinopathy in India. I thought it was so cool how they’re using machine learning to identify if the eyes of specific people suggested that they were getting blind from diabetes. The future scope is so wide!

What else are you involved in at UCSD?

Other than WIC, I was involved with ACM as well and participated in their programming competition. I also was involved in TESC. I’m also part of an entrepreneur club that’s about building your own projects from scratch and putting them on the market. There’s a business track and a technology track, and I thought that was pretty interesting.

What advice do you have for incoming students?

I know it’s hard for them because of COVID and everything, but it’s definitely going to get better. I would tell them to enjoy their time the most that they can and attend as many events as they can. Then they can get a feel of which clubs they relate to if they try a bunch of different ones from the start. These can definitely guide you in the direction that you want to go. Take it slow and easy and enjoy your time!

What’s been your favorite CS class so far and why?

I loved every single one of my CS classes. One of my favorites was CSE 12 because the PAs were so interesting. I also liked CSE 21 because I finally understood the logic behind everything. CSE 30 was also really cool because Assembly was just so fun! In general, spending too many hours in the dungeon was awesome getting to the point where you said “Dang, this is the right answer!”

What’s been your favorite non-CS class so far and why?

I haven’t taken it yet, but I’m excited for MUS172, which is basically music and computer science together. They also kind of teach you EDM! I love that so much! I’ve never learned how to do it although I play the keyboard.

Another course that I didn’t plan on taking but ended up taking was MUS15, which is Popular Music, and the quarter I took the class, it was about Australian music. I learned about so many cool songs and didn’t realize that so many artists I know were actually from Australia, like Tame Impala. Honestly, I really enjoyed that class big time.

Where would you want to travel?

I’ve always wanted to go to Greenland and see their natural light. There are beautiful houses and if you go at night you can stargaze. I love the night sky!

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sravya balasa ♂

sravya balasa ♂

cs, design @ ucsd. intern @instagram @viasat @salesforce. lover of outreach and dogs! https://sravyabalasa.github.io/