Season 2

The “Secret Sauce” – Episode 021

Dr. Juan Gilbert is passionate about diversifying computer science and the professoriate. He is a first generation college student whose parents instilled in him the value of education. Juan purposefully chose to be a scholar-athlete but by serendipitously became a computer scientist. His attempts to avoid graduate school obviously didn’t pan out and we are so grateful. Learn more about how he developed his model for recruiting underrepresented students, and in particular, black students and how he translated that into the Institute African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences.

Blazing Trails: Catch this Smoke – Episode 020

Dr. Nicki Washington is unapologetically dope. She literally wrote the book. No, seriously! Her book entitled, Unapologetically Dope: Lessons for Black Women and Girls on Surviving and Thriving in the Tech Field, is just one of the many reasons you want to know this Modern Figure. She is a trailblazer, and is working tirelessly on ensuring pathways into tech remain available to the next generation of the black tech workforce. Nicki is also one of our favorite people to follow on social media. Her fiery passion shines through whether she’s speaking on current events or just taking an internet troll to task for challenging her expert opinion.

Lessons from a 14 Year Old Tech Boss – Episode 019

At 14 years of age, Jeremy and Kyla couldn’t have imagined being the CEO of a tech company. Today’s guest, Moria Bowman, has been working on businesses since she was 10! Growing up in an entrepreneurial family inspires her drive to create and sustain her companies. But she has no plans to involve her other siblings. As a homeschooler, her time is a bit more flexible than other kids her age. This gives Moria time to invest in her company. Zinger, is a ride-share app designed to protect its users from danger. Listen in and more about this young tech boss and what she’s doing to improve safety on the road.

Securing the Bag with Digital Swag – Episode 018

Jasmine Bowers is a doctoral candidate researching digital finance privacy and security at the University of Florida. She’s known since 11th grade that she wanted to be Dr. Bowers but navigating how to get there has been an unexpected journey. She’s seen quite a bit of success publishing and presenting her work, and finding ways to incorporate hip-hop titles per her research advisor. Finding ways to better communicate privacy policies is so important, and usable security is what she’s passionate about. Hopefully, through her doctoral research mo(bile) money won’t mean mo(re) problems! We also learn about the ways in which she’s found ways to set goals and manage her expectations.

Ask Us Anything – Higher Education Edition – Episode 017

In late 2019 we asked our followers on social media what they wanted to know. At the time, it was a chance to encourage participation from attendees at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando in a social media challenge. But after reviewing all of the questions, we realized we should probably dive deeper into our responses. This episode focuses on answering questions related to higher education. It includes suggestions for students in high school and college. We also talk about the resources we use, organizations to leverage, and advice about research. We dive into what it’s like being Black women in academia, as well as intersectionality and what that means to us. We even had a surprisingly deep question from Jeremy’s brother, @ScooterMagruder. What do you think about our answers? Use #ModFigsPod to respond.

Holding Space and Interrogating Privilege – Episode 016

Dr. Colleen Lewis is our favorite ally for underrepresented populations in computing. Though she is a white female, we felt it was important to bring her on to the podcast to showcase how she has leveraged her privilege to dismantle racist systems and structures to improve the experiences of others. In other words, she’s BEEN at the cookout, and now she’s on our podcast. Her work is at the intersection of computing and education, where she focuses on issues related to gender and diversity. You can often find Dr. Lewis at conferences presenting a workshop to help educators recognize and respond to bias through research-based scenarios, or as we refer to it: “Microaggressions – The Game.” This episode is filled with gems around effective strategies for feeling included if you don’t fit within the normative depiction of a computer scientist. There’s also a sweet segment about her friend named Irene, who introduced her to the world of computing. Our takeaway from this episode: get yourself an Irene! Or better yet, a Colleen.

Big Goals & Big Data – Episode 015

Would you say no to the Alvin-Ailey Dance School? Dr. Renata Rawlings-Goss did in the name of science! Though she was enrolled in a competitive performing arts program during high school, a PBS commercial inspired her to pursue an interest in astrophysics. Her undergraduate experiences at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University ultimately catalyzed her desire to pursue graduate school. Though she is a biophysicist by training, Dr. Rawlings-Goss currently serves as the founding Executive Director of the South Big Data Innovation Hub where she helps industry leaders leverage data science to identify solutions at the regional and national level. Learn about how she translated her skills into the discipline of computing through research.

Pink & Green Robot Queen – Episode 014

Modern-Figures-Season-2 (8)

Episode 14 – Pink & Green Robot Queen

Hosts: Dr. Jeremy Waisome & Dr. Kyla McMullen

Guest: De’Aira Bryant

Instagram – @DeeGotRobots

Twitter – @DeeGotRobots

Web – www.deairabryant.com

Description:

 De’Aira is a graduate student conducting interdisciplinary research focused on helping children through social robotics at Georgia Institute of Technology. Listen in as she discusses what it’s like to be a “high profile graduate student” traveling the world, sharing how we can leverage artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, ethics, and machine learning to improve outcomes for society. Her experiences now are a long way from those she had in her hometown in South Carolina within the “Corridor of Shame.” Her unconventional route into computing is hilarious but shows just how important mentorship and community is for Black women in computing.

Bio:

De’Aira Bryant is a third-year computer science Ph.D. student in the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research areas span the fields of human-robot interaction, artificial intelligence and cognitive science. As a graduate researcher in the Human-Automation Systems (HumAnS) Lab, her studies explore the possibilities for interactive communication between children and social robots. She is especially passionate about the fair and ethical use of AI for social good and the protection of vulnerable populations.

Prior to attending Georgia Tech for her graduate studies, De’Aira graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. She is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the National GEM Consortium Fellowship, the SLOAN Minority PhD Fellowship and the Lillie J. James Computer Science award.

Hailing from the small town of Estill, South Carolina, De’Aira is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She has demonstrated a long history of service work and is particularly involved in a variety of computer science and robotics outreach programs. De’Aira even recently gave a TEDx talk entitled “Paying it Forward with Social Robots.” In the long term, she dreams of pursuing a career in academia to further inspire and promote computer science education for all students.

In charge, INTech, and in grad school – Episode 013

Imagine taking a leap of faith to start something new when you secure in your perceived dream tech job. Khalia Braswell took the reins of her career to pursue her dream of creating a organization that serves her community and it is thriving. And now, she fulfilling a new dream of obtaining a doctoral degree. Learn how she navigated the twists and turns she encountered along the way.

Squad Goals – Episode 012

Join us as we chat with Isa Watson. She talks about her childhood rooted in curiosity, kindness, and humility, fostered by her parents. Hear about her experience transitioning from the HBCU community to an Ivy League. Though she began as a Chemistry major, Isa skillfully navigated Silicon Valley, and is now the CEO of a Tech Company called “Squad”, which raised nearly $4mm in venture capital funding and has scaled rapidly. She has always been a believer in the importance of community at all stages, and her story will inspire you to do the same.

Started from the Java, Now We Here – Episode 011

n this episode, Dr. Kyla McMullen takes a seat on the opposite side of the podcast table to become a guest for the day. Dr. McMullen talks about her journey into computing, although she could not have cared less about school as a student. Today, her work in 3D audio is being used to augment interfaces in virtual and augmented reality, as well as gain insights on spatial audio perception. Tune in as Dr. McMullen tells her own unique super-shero origin story.