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Hannah Mannering: Loyola’s Choudhury Sarkar-Dey Medal

Envisioning a Career Beyond just Coding through Internships and College Experiences

Growing up, I never thought I would pursue math or technology professionally; I never passionately connected with these subjects. My understanding of what constituted a career in these fields was limited to my father’s experience. A software development director at a corporation, his job seemed lacking in the area most important to me: direct impact on society. My desire to make a positive influence came from high school volunteer experiences at Read Aloud Delaware, an organization that promotes literacy skills for preschool children. I loved seeing how the simple act of reading fostered learning, curiosity, and excitement in children. I found it hard to see how something as abstract as computer science could make a difference in the lives of others.

When I started college, I was enthusiastic to broaden my knowledge of computer science. In class, I learned analysis, problem-solving, and statistical skills and applied them to projects such as investigating the city of Baltimore’s birth rate. Unfortunately, during my first year of school, the COVID-19 pandemic began. With social distancing, there seemed to be no way to use my coding skills to make any impact. However, my experiences through Loyola and in internships changed my perspective on how I could combine my passions for coding and making a social impact.

I felt powerless at the start of COVID, but I decided to look for ways to develop my talent and support others. Through the advice of my Evergreen, I applied to an NSF Research Experience in 2020 and conducted research with Vanderbilt University Medical Center. My research analyzed how the increased use of virtual systems during the pandemic affected Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) clinician teamwork. The research study quantified how increased virtual teamwork during COVID-19 affected clinicians’ collaboration. Analyzing this premise was fascinating; the metrics created assessed differences in how clinicians work together via the electronic healthcare record. In addition, analyzing hospital data allowed me to see ways that I could use Computer Science to help patients and clinicians. For example, hospitals can use the methods developed as tools to assess differences in how clinicians work together during current and future disruptions such as pandemics. In addition, my research was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research with the title “Assessing Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Structures and Outcomes Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Network Analysis Study’.

In another research project, I utilized graph-based algorithms and machine learning techniques to discover breach patterns within the Internet of Health Things (IoHT). The IoHT looks at objects that process data to improve patient outcomes. However, many hackers have discovered how to bypass IoHT security measures and exploit patient and hospital data. My research identified several intrusion patterns that can enable security experts to defend against future attacks. For instance, my research identified the most prevalent attack that hackers use to exploit patient data; this identification can be used to build network protections against cyber attacks. My research was published in the FLAIRS-35 conference proceedings under “Discovering Breach Patterns on the Internet of Health Things: A Graph and Machine Learning Anomaly Analysis”. These two research opportunities allowed me to see how I could use computer science to help and engage local and worldwide communities.

            On campus, I believe Loyola provides many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. I am involved in numerous activities that focus on innovation, technology, and leadership. For instance, I have been an active member of the women in technology club for two years and served as a former president. As the president, I led meetings and strived to create a community for women in technology. Since 2020, I have been participating in Greyhound News, where I have served as an editor of News and Opinions Editor. In this position, I strive to convey the opinions of students at Loyola and have their voices heard. I have also written numerous articles, such as “Whose art is it anyway? Public Art Panel Discusses Collective Memory”; which discusses how art can convey important narratives such as black history. During my time at Loyola, I was also a member of the Student Leadership Corps, where I developed personal and relational leadership skills through activities such as reflection. I also lead a GOLD workshop series for students, where I spoke about methods of effective leadership through the lens of relationship leadership. At Loyola, I also had the opportunity to make a difference through off-campus volunteer opportunities. During freshman year, I volunteered at Govans as a STEM peer tutor, where I taught lego engineering lessons to second-grade children.

            Another on-campus organization that I have been involved in is University Innovations. Being an active member since freshman year has allowed me to develop and implement on-campus innovation and design thinking opportunities. The University Innovation Fellows program trains students to conduct an in-depth analysis of campus ecosystems. For three years, I have partnered with different members of Loyola’s community, such as ALANA, to broaden support for minorities in STEM.

 Last semester, I partnered with Dr. Fenner, chair of the Engineering department, and the NAS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. Dr. Fenner and I surveyed to get student opinions on how to innovate student support on campus. This survey was in response to a 2021 zoom with ALANA that highlighted the low retention rate of ALANA students on campus. The survey included questions, such as asking students to rate the importance of items, such as access to resources and faculty, to their success. In the fall, I also hosted a STEM Listening session in October to assess student opinions and brainstorm ways to support minority students. In this session, I was able to facilitate open communication between students.

            As a cohort member of University Innovation Fellows, I also had the opportunity to brainstorm programs on campus with faculty members. One project I have worked on, with Dr. Roughani, is a near-peer STEM mentorship program. In near-peer mentoring ALANA freshmen and sophomores would be assigned juniors and seniors as their mentors. Mentors would guide students in resources, applying to internships, and classes. This program would aim to increase the retention of ALANA students.

In conclusion, I believe my experiences at Loyola and in research have allowed me to make a difference in ways I never imagined. In addition, I believe that Loyola provides students with the ability to flourish in various ways. In particular, being a member of Loyola’s Innovations Fellows allowed me to brainstorm ways to further build and innovate my local community. Not only do I believe my education has strengthened my leadership skills, but it has also prepared me for my future career in Computer Science and allowed me to envision a career that could help others.