As a young teen, Garima Jain did not understand the computer game Minesweeper.
“I would just click random buttons,” she says. “I wondered how someone thought up this game and made it on a computer.”
Noticing Jain’s curiosity, her father encouraged her to pursue computer science classes. She took his advice and quickly learned new programming languages that allowed her to recreate the game.
Jain went on to study computer science at J.C. Bose University of Science and Technology, YMCA in her hometown of Faridabad, India, before transferring for her junior year to UMass Lowell, where she continues to major in computer science with a minor in mathematics.
“The USA has a lot of opportunities, and it was my dream country to go get an education,” says Jain, whose older sister, Shruti, received a master’s degree in computer science from UML.
Interested in gaining research experience while at the university, Jain knocked on the doors of professors looking to work in one of their labs. She met Fred Martin, a computer science professor and Kennedy College of Sciences associate dean for teaching, learning and undergraduate studies, who offered her a position within his Engaging Computing Group.
Through Martin’s National Science Foundation-funded project, CS Pathways, Jain helped develop a culturally responsive computer science curriculum for middle school students.
“One of the goals of the project was to present computer science for all, be it underrepresented minorities or women,” she says.
Jain visited middle schools in Methuen to showcase the curriculum, which included having students create vision boards to design apps that can serve their communities.
She traveled to Uppsala, Sweden, with Martin and three other students to present their CS Pathways work at the 2022 Frontiers in Education Conference.
“This conference gave me the opportunity to present my research, discover the latest trends in my field, gain knowledge from experts and explore a new city,” Jain says. “That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The skills Jain gained from working in Martin’s lab translated over to her internship with software company Dell Technologies at its Hopkinton, Massachusetts, office.
“When I started my journey at Dell, I promised myself that I would get the most out of this opportunity by not shying away from questions and networking with a lot of people,” she says. “This is something I learned at UML while working on the research project.”
At Dell, Jain worked on ransomware detection using machine learning. Through the internship, she realized the importance of applying what she had learned in class to the real world, so she reached out to additional professors, hoping to gain more experience. Computer Science Asst. Prof. Hadi Amiri welcomed Jain into his lab and started her on a research project related to her machine-learning interests.
“Working on that project and being surrounded by all the teammates in his lab has been a wonderful experience,” she says. “Every week, we have a meeting, and I learn something new.”
For Jain, there are two characteristics that make UMass Lowell so special.
“There is a lot of opportunity, and the people here are amazing,” she says. “I love the culture at UMass Lowell.”