Little Known Black History Fact: Dr. Kyla McMullen

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  • Dr. Kyla McMullen has become the first African American woman at the University of Michigan to graduate with a Ph.D. in Computer Science. As a child, McMullen would be on the computer day and night trying to crack the codes.

    McMullen attributes her desire to learn computer sciences to her high school teacher, Dr. Randy Ware, who worked to break his student’s stereotypical view of what a computer scientist looked like.

    One day her high school guidance counselor suggested that she apply for the University of Maryland – Baltimore County’s Meyerhoff Scholarship program. She was a shoe-in. Next up, graduate school, then her Ph.D.

    In 2007, while working on her Masters, McMullen began constructing educational software that taught kids how to make relationships between objects. She’s also worked in research involving the construction of virtual environments that navigate by sound alone. It was a project through the Naval Submarine Medical Research Lab.  The project is being considered for workers in dangerous environments.

    According to a survey conducted by the Computing Research Association, 1.2 % of computer science Ph.D.’s were African American. That’s roughly 16 people.  Dr. McMullen is not alone in her accomplishments. Her best friend, Nwokedi Idika, is now the first African American to get a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Purdue University.

    Dr. McMullen is now one of the newest additions as an Assistant Professor to the Human-Centered Computing division to Clemson University’s School of Computing in Clemson, South Carolina. She has held the office of both President and the Vice President of The Society of Minority Engineers and Scientists and the Vice President of the Movement of Underrepresented Sisters in Engineering and Science (MUSES).

    Have a young student who’s interested in computer science? Email Dr. Kyla McMullen at kyla.mcmullen@gmail.com.

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