During his undergrad, Deyrel Diaz attended a VR hackathon where he tried out an aircraft training demo. While Deyrel, a computer science (CS) student, had experience with 3D modeling and coding, seeing the results in action was all new. “This was the first time I’d seen the two mediums interact on such an immersive level,” he says. “Seeing how this simulation was used for real world training and research...I wanted to be a part of that.” Today, Deyrel is a PhD student studying Human-Centered Computing at Clemson University with a focus on mixed reality (AR/VR) research. He’s also a graduate of the most recent class of the CS Research Mentorship Program (CSRMP), one initiative by Google Research to support students from historically marginalized groups (HMGs) in computing research pathways.
Recognizing that the work CS Researchers are doing has broad implications for billions of people across the globe, CSRMP aims to ensure that the community of researchers represents the experiences, perspectives, concerns and creative enthusiasm of all the people of the world, by supporting the pursuit of computing research for undergraduate and graduate students from HMGs through mentorship, peer networking and career exploration.
In June, CSRMP graduated a class of 281 students from 110 universities across the United States and Canada. We spoke with Deyrel to learn more about his experience and plans for his journey in computing research. Here’s what he had to say:
What motivated you to participate in CSRMP?
Through programs and conferences, I learned just how important it is to have representation in the development and design of technology. When I read about CSRMP, I saw the opportunity to not only help expand that community by connecting with other professionals in the field, but to also learn alongside some of the best and brightest students from around the world.
How has CSRMP influenced your research journey?
The pod meetings influenced my journey the most. I was able to build relationships with other phenomenal student researchers and my CSRMP mentor. We discussed the challenges we face while conducting computing research, and we shared lots of helpful tools and resources. These meetings were also a place to find inspiration and motivation, and helped me learn about other career fields, which I might incorporate into my future research.
What are you proudest of?
I’m proudest of winning two national fellowships that will fully fund my PhD studies. The support system my mentors created for me really helped guide me in the right direction, so it’s thanks to this strong mentorship I was able to accomplish this. Plus, having these fellowships gave me the time to take part in programs where I can mentor other up-and-coming underrepresented students and expose them to not only computing research, but graduate school in general.
What advice do you have for students like you who are curious about starting their journeys as researchers in computing?
The field of computer science touches anything and everything, and if there’s something it hasn’t, you could be the person who makes it happen. That said, there’s no reason for you to pursue something you don’t love, so seek out professors, hack-a-thons, demos or certificate programs to learn more about different fields and how you can use them in personal projects. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do, just start tinkering and create something you’d have fun using.
Congratulations to all of the students who graduated from the CS Research Mentorship Program in the first half of 2021! We look forward to supporting future students who are taking computing research by storm like Deyrel Diaz. Applications are now open for the September 2021 mentorship cycle – apply by July 28, 2021.