Peizhu Pam Qian '19 standing next to owl statue.

Pam Qian '19: Computer Science Changes Lives

ON CHOOSING SIMMONS: I took a college trip in my junior year of high school and fell in love with Boston. I was so impressed that everyone on the T was reading books or newspapers — I later learned that this wasn't always typical! I applied to several schools in Boston and in the end, I chose Simmons because I liked the supportive and close community.

ON PURSUING COMPUTER SCIENCE: I interned at an educational technology startup in China the summer after high school and saw the power computer science has to change lives. My dream is to provide underserved communities with free, quality educational resources so I chose to major in computer science. Halfway through my first year at Simmons, I decided to double major in mathematics because I just find it so fascinating!

ON HER WINNING PROJECT: This November I was selected to participate in a team project at the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis, known as SC18, in Dallas, Texas. My team presented in the "computing4change" competition — only 16 competitors were chosen from a pool of 250 applicants worldwide. 

The title of our project was "Resisting Cultural Acceptance of Violence." We researched how certain forms of violence are more socially acceptable in different cultures — for example, gun violence is more acceptable in the United States compared to other countries. Since my teammates were from Hawaii, California, and Guam, we focused on domestic violence in Hawaiian culture, mass shootings in American culture, and self-inflicted (suicide) violence in Guam. 

From left: Nilo Jayr Rivera Espinoza, University of Guam, Peizhu "Pam" Qian, Simmons University, Claire Fiorino, San Diego State University, Hoano Rosario, Chaminade University of Honolulu at SC18

We used Tableau and R to analyze raw datasets and animated the results to improve the visual effects of the final delivery. For my individual contribution, I gave three technological designs and violence interventions: 

  1. Implement GPS receivers in guns and automatically disable any firearms detected in school zones, so we can prevent school shootings. 
  2. Implement biometrics (fingerprint and palm print) in guns to decrease underage shootings (when kids accidentally fire guns that belong to their parents) and stolen guns (more than 300,000 guns are stolen every year in the United States and 80% of them were never found).
  3. Utilize AI therapists that people can call or text to help with their anxiety, stress, and other mental discomforts, especially when users are not comfortable speaking to human therapists. 

I didn't expect to win but I was so excited! This is a big milestone for my career and it encourages me to pursue my dream of utilizing technology to empower and transform the world around us.

Pam Qian '19 with teammate at SC18.ON HER INTERNSHIP: At the University of Memphis, I worked on an intelligent tutoring system called AutoTutor, which adapts and personalizes students learning in a various range of subjects. Students can interact with AutoTutor through either spoken or written communication in English or Chinese. I built a natural language processing semantic space for the system on Google App Engine, did a lot of debugging, and wrote the software requirements specification documents for AutoTutor authoring tool. 

Additionally, under the supervision of Dr. Xiangen Hu, I researched and constructed a language network using natural language processing techniques to simulate human social networks, as well as other real networks. This research received the runner-up of the Castellan Award for the best student presentation with special recognition at the Society for Computers in Psychology's 48th Annual Meeting in New Orleans. The full research paper is currently under review by the International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing.

ON HER PLANS AFTER GRADUATION: My short-term goal is to find a PhD program that aligns with my interests in creating educational technologies. I'm currently in the middle of my application processes. My long-term career goal is to become a professor. My ultimate dream is to ensure that all children have access to equal, quality educational resources and to create ed-tech tools that personalize the student learning process.

ON HER FAVORITE SIMMONS MEMORIES: There are so many! I enjoy all the time spent with my professors, computer science and math peers, my roommates (since my first year), my teammates on the crew team, and my international friends from the International and Multicultural Students Organization (MISO)... I can’t pick just one!

Second photo, from left: Nilo Jayr Rivera Espinoza, University of Guam; Peizhu "Pam" Qian '19, Simmons University; Claire Fiorino, San Diego State University; and Hoano Rosario, Chaminade University of Honolulu.

Third photo, from left: Claire Fiorino, San Diego State University and Peizhu "Pam" Qian '19, Simmons University.

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