Diversity Statement

My conviction on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is deeply rooted in my background. I was fortunate enough to have sustained exposure to diversity from very early in my life: while I was born in India, I spent most of my late childhood in South Korea. Eventually, I ended up in the US to finish my high school and start college, but not before I had spent a few months in Japan, a few in Australia, and a few more back in India. During this time, I attended schools of 3 different nationalities: Indian, Korean, and American. Adjusting to new cultures is difficult in the best of circumstances, especially with such a wide gulf. There is a sense of alienation that I am well familiar with, as well as the sense of comfort that comes from acceptance, respect, and recognition.

In my interactions with students, I strive to create a respectful, inclusive, and positive environment. Praise for students is never wasted, and I make sure to point out specific student achievements during office hours and group meetings. I encourage students to speak up and I try to foster equitable participation, while also recognizing that some students may not be comfortable in a group setting and making accommodations for them. I am cognizant of micro-aggressions and subtle put-downs from my own friendships as well as diversity training, and I enforce respectful boundaries in my interactions as well as in inter-student communications. I am also well aware of the stigmatization of the strange (as an immigrant four times over!), and I try to highlight students’ individual abilities and contributions.

Diversity in Teaching and Research

I also make sure to include DEI principles directly in my teaching examples. My lectures and office hours are often peppered with application examples in underserved communities so that students can recognize the impact their work could have on emerging healthcare systems, economic development, and information democratization. I emphasize the tangible impact of DEI: from cameras capturing varying skin tones to algorithmic bias mitigation to breaking open community silos with third places, I encourage students to embrace inclusive communication and consider equity in their projects. I myself have taken a minor in Public Policy to better understand the intersection of technology and policy and in the future, help consult or draft inclusive and effective legislation/policies where possible.

DEI is usually applied to inclusivity in human resources and improving equity of access for historically underrepresented minorities. I strongly believe as faculty, we can and should augment intra-department DEI initiatives to be inclusive of skill sets and technical contributions from non-computer science colleagues from the arts, humanities, and sociologists. I have personally witnessed the value that interdisciplinary inclusivity can bring to research and academic projects, and I believe that it is essential to actively seek out and include these perspectives. Some of the fascinating insights in my research, e.g., on inherent biases in visual and text datasets and accessibility of ML toolchains for humanities research have come from discussions with ethnographers, artists, and writers. One of my aims would be to continue to develop a strong foundation of inclusive and accessible interdisciplinary research, especially as computer science broadens its impact with a near-ubiquitous tech stack.

In my own teaching, I have built some of my curriculum in courses I TA and mentor in a supplementary capacity from the ground up to be inclusive of all skill levels. As a particular example, many students in the Real-Time Embedded Systems course (one of the courses I have TA’d for at Georgia Tech) do not have sufficient background in machine learning or end-to-end microservice architectures. I have designed my mentoring and supplementary teaching for students with this diversity of skill sets in mind by integrating examples, projects, and lectures with EdnaML, a reproducibility framework I initially built for myself to maintain machine learning models for our lab over several years. I have used EdnaML as an excellent pedagogical tool to cater to multiple skill levels: Students have the flexibility in using high-level building blocks within the framework for projects, while having the option to drill down on specific lower-level components that interest them, such as parallelization, neural networks, visualization, or data programming. This flexibility of options and accessibility to students of diverse skill sets, interests, and learning styles has allowed even relatively inexperienced undergraduates to develop truly remarkable projects in their courses. In a single semester, one group of three undergraduate students built a tool for healthcare misinformation detection complete with live data ingest, processing, classification, and visualization! Two students have published research papers on datasets they collected, labeled, and benchmarked during their semester. Several others have adapted and extended their course projects to their undergraduate and master’s theses.

Diversity in Service

I have also taken the initiative on multiple one-on-one DEI initiatives to help students beyond mentioning that I am available for open communication. For several transgender students, I have provided access to resources for official name changes within the University after noticing discrepancies between their gradebook names and email signatures. During my undergraduate at Fresno State, I was a committee member for the Society of Women Engineers and wrote grant applications for conference participation and professional development activity fees. At Georgia Tech, as a reviewer for the President’s Undergraduate Research Awards, I have advocated for funding student projects particularly focused on reducing equity gaps and improving technology or resource accessibility.

I have mentored a wide range of students through volunteering and outreach in academia as well. Through FIRST Robotics and FIRST Lego League mentorship programs, I have coached several teams of elementary, middle, and high school students in robot design and programming through local, state, and national tournaments (where they have won championships). As part of Junior Achievement, I have conducted experiential learning for elementary and middle school students in financial literacy. I have also mentored 3 high school students who have subsequently studied computer science in college; one of them continues to be a mentee at Georgia Tech. I am also an effective SciComm practitioner, having consulted for movies (student movies and Hollywood!) and a medical startup focusing working on eye tracking for Parkinson’s disease.

In my future teaching, research, and service, I will continue to engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to foster a robust academic and research community that is accessible and respectful for everyone. As a faculty member, I am committed to creating an inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students.