North Dakota University System
Women NDSU faculty, student make news for computer science department

Posted on 12/20/2017

During a year when gender inequity in computing fields made headlines, several women have enhanced NDSU's leadership position in the discipline.

Anne Denton became the first female full professor in a research university computer science department in North Dakota. Juan Li, associate professor of computer science, was awarded one of the largest grants in the department's history. And graduate student Chengyao Tang made headlines when she led the university in a cybersecurity competition.

Denton's accomplishment of reaching the highest faculty rank is seen as an inspiration for all faculty. To achieve the distinction, Denton has, among other accomplishments, published more than 30 peer-reviewed journal publications and 25 conference papers. Computing competition teams she coaches also have gained attention this year, winning at numerous events.

"Anne Denton is applying data analysis methods to sustainability and climate change issues and agriculture," said Kendall E. Nygard, professor and chair of computer science. "This is an important cause of our time. She is among the very best at what she does."

Li, along with co-principal investigators Jun Kong, Siobhan Wescott and Donald Warne, received nearly $990,000 in National Science Foundation funding to study the important public health topic of American Indian diabetes self-management. The goal of the project is to develop an integrated, accessible, cost-effective solution for improved diabetes self-management and social networking for American Indian patients. The grant number is 1722913.

"Drs. Juan Li and Jun Kong have shown great diligence and persistence in attracting funding for their important research programs. It's gratifying that their efforts and expertise are affirmed with this grant," Nygard said. "It leverages the research expertise that we have in the department and establishes a powerful partnership with researchers in the health professions application area."

In NDSU's first year in the National Cyber League cybersecurity competition, Tang took the top spot at NDSU - and was in the top 15 percent of entrants nationally. The only woman on the team, she showed that NDSU is an emerging leader in the area of cybersecurity.

"Chengyao's accomplishment - ranking among the top students nationwide during her first year of competition - is impressive," said Jeremy Straub, assistant professor of computer science, who coached the NDSU team. "Given the extraordinarily male-dominated nature of the cybersecurity field, the accomplishment is all the more notable."

The NDSU computer science department was founded in 1988, although computer science courses were offered through mathematical sciences since 1973. It offers doctoral degrees in computer science and software engineering, three master's degrees and two bachelor's degree programs. The department has approximately 600 graduate and undergraduate student majors.

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