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Department of Computer Science and Technology

Students on our Women in Computer Science programme visited Cambridge in June 2024

The first group of Year 12 students to complete our five-month Women in Computer Science programme have just visited Cambridge for an end-of-course residential. Congratulations to them on their hard work and achievements!

In a packed two-day programme, the students discussed the research projects they'd carried out during the programme, had a tour of this Department and visited three Cambridge colleges. At a workshop on the second day, they learned about using the computer programming language Prolog. They also watched a mock admissions interview, seeing some of the kinds of questions that are asked – and some of the logical-thinking and problem-solving approaches that interviewees might take when trying to answer.

The students also attended a panel discussion about applying to Cambridge and chatted to current Computer Science students about their experiences here before attending a formal dinner and staying overnight at Corpus Christi College. 

The residential concluded with an award ceremony at which they were presented with certificates for completing the programme. And three of the students received awards for carrying out the best projects.  

A five-month programme, Women in Computer Science gives female and non-binary students in Year 12 (ie the first year of A Levels) an insight into what studying Computer Science at university is like. The aim is to encourage more of them to apply to study Computer Science at university the following autumn.

Through a series of discussion groups, participants are introduced to different areas of Computer Science from machine learning to cybersecurity. They then do a research project in an area that interests them, mentored by a current University of Cambridge undergraduate. All students who submit a completed project are invited to the end-of-programme residential.    

The projects spanned areas from quantum cryptography to using explainable AI to counteract black box systems in healthcare to how transistor stacking will extend Moore’s Law into the future.

Overall, the standard of work was extremely impressive and we presented Nourhan, Arnica and Zoriana with Best Project Awards for their work on 'Exploring dynamical systems and their applications in pseudorandom number generation', 'Harnessing AI for Ocean Conservation: Strategies to Mitigate Pollution' and 'To what extent do computer simulations help us understand the Universe?'. 

The participants told us they really enjoyed working with our student mentors. Hafsa said: "My mentor was really friendly - it was so nice to have time with her and be able to ask her questions. And you could tell the mentors weren't just doing it for credit, they were genuinely interested in helping us."

Another participant, Maryam, met up with her mentor Zejia during the residential. She says: "It was so useful to get feedback from her. This is only the second time that I've done a project like this and I felt a bit lost and wasn't sure I was doing things right. Zejia shared things with me that she had recently learned about computer architecture and it helped me make sure that what I was saying in my project was correct."

I'll definitely be applying to Cambridge now as I really want to come here: the residential has made me want to work harder so I can get in. I've visited three colleges and I could see myself at any of them."

Encouragement to study Computer Science
The programme has clearly encouraged students seriously to pursue their interest in Computer Science.

Sania, a Year 12 student from Coventry, said "I thought that coming to a prestige university and seeing how the subject is taught here would give me insights into what it would be like to study it. And it's been really beneficial. It's shown me what University life is like in terms of the content you'll learn, and what the accommodation is like. And hearing about the application process and going to an interview workshop were useful as in school sometimes they don’t tell you enough, especially about applying to Oxbridge. For me, talking to actual Computer Science undergraduates one-to-one and hearing their experience and opinions was very insightful. I would definitely encourage others to do this."

Hafsa from London said: "I was already thinking about applying to Cambridge before the residential, but I'll definitely be doing so now. I really want to come here: it’s made me want to work harder so I can get in. I’ve seen three colleges – Corpus Christi, Clare and Newnham – and I could see myself at any of them."

Nadia, also from London, said: "The residential has been great. Before, I was thinking of applying to Cambridge but I didn’t really want to come – the stereotypes around Oxbridge put me off. But after coming here and seeing Cambridge for myself and talking to a lot of students, it has really changed my mind. I think the vibe is really nice: I feel I could genuinely come and spend three years here and call it home. I’ll definitely go back to my school and encourage others to do this programme in future."

Published by Rachel Gardner on Monday 8th July 2024