Brittany Johnson

6th Year PhD Candidate
Department of Computer Science
North Carolina State University

About Me

My undergraduate degree was in Computer Science and I graduated from College of Charleston. When I was younger, I thought I would be a fashion designer or a baker.

How was your experience with STEM classes and teachers in middle and high school?

It was decent even though the technology part was basically non-existent. I often enjoyed the STEM classes and teachers I encountered more than other areas of study. I was able to take one programming course in high school, which peaked my interest, and even though the instructor was female, her title wasn’t “computer scientist.” This made it hard to imagine (or ask questions about) what it would be like to pursue such a career. It wasn’t until college that I got a real glimpse into the technology aspect of STEM.

After grad school, what’s next?

I plan to continue into academia where I can continue my research and help students realize their passion from their interest in CS.

What do you do to unwind?

I LOVE movies and spending time with my beau. I keep my nails done (which is extremely therapeutic) and I also enjoy outdoor activities or anything that allows me to express my artistic side.

My Research

My research is at the intersection of human factors and software engineering, focusing on developer tools and productivity. More specifically, my current research interests lie in exploring the possibility of artificially intelligent developer tools and environments. One day I hope to grow a business from my line of research. Bespoke tools for everyone!

My undergraduate research involved created software for geologists to store and view their data. This introduced me to software engineering research and the idea of using it to help others do their jobs more efficiently. I enjoyed it so much that when I was offered an opportunity to study something that would help others (developers) I jumped at the opportunity.

The coolest thing about my research is that I get to explore different areas in Computer Science and how they can work together to improve the lives of others. And of course the fact that I get to flex my technical and empirical research skills.

The hardest part of the research is implementing and evaluating potential solutions suggested by my research; the idea of artificially intelligent tools and environments is a utopian one and requires technical expertise and big data that is not always available. But nothing is impossible!

My Grad School Experience

My mentor, who introduced me to research, suggested it as an option to continue to do research and study more specific aspects of Computer Science. I also knew I didn’t want a 40-60 hour workweek developer job; grad school seemed like it might widen my career options.

Often. At first, it was hard because there were few if any people in my lab, or even at my university, that I felt I could talk with. Fortunately, as I continued my graduate studies I encountered faculty and students that would contribute to the support system I needed to get through the hard times. Even though I was able to make connections with women like me through conferences and other travel, the most support and motivation I’ve received to overcome hard times comes from having someone else like me working nearby.

My family and friends for sure! I also have a great network of advisors and mentors who encourage me as well. My family and friends have been there through it all and they make sure I stay fed, happy, and sane outside of work.

What do you want to say to up and coming Melanin Genius?

Never give up on what you know you want to—and can—do. It’s gonna be hard more often than easy but it’s always worth it in the end. Our melaningenius can’t be stopped!

Fav Mantras

Find people who care no matter what they look like.

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