Imani Sherman

1st Year PhD Student
Human-Centered Computing
University of Florida

About Me

I earned a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from Kentucky State University. Prior to that, I had earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Dayton. In my younger days, I had hopes of becoming a Math teacher, hairdresser and taxi driver but now I have set my sights on becoming a professor.

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

I had a positive experience overall. My only issue was with my math teacher during my junior year of high school. She had a way of making you feel ridiculous for asking a question and crazy when you needed help or something repeated. I thank my parents because they were extremely supportive and made sure this instructor didn’t overstep her duties. I honestly hated math and didn’t want to see it ever again after her class, but my parents encouraged me to continue.

 

After grad school, what’s next?

After graduation I plan to work as a cyber security policy researcher, analyst and professor.

What do you do to unwind?

I love to put on my chef’s hat and cook new dishes. And of course eating my creations is the best part! I also workout, dance and hang out with my friends.

My Research

Tell us about your doctoral research

My research topic isn’t fully developed but I am currently working in the areas of usable security, information security and public policy. I am interested in investigating the ways in which users keep their email secure, how this can be improved via usability and what the implications for policy will be.

What motivated you to pursue this line of research?

I was initially interested in roller coaster robotics and control systems, which both still hold a place in my heart. However, my interests shifted after I spent a summer working on a project that investigated how criminals use the Internet. The information I found was shocking yet fascinating. I became especially interested in this direction once I discovered that the tools in place to improve security often remain unused for various reasons (one of the biggest factors is usability). So I wondered, “How can we improve the usability of these tools?” I am motivated by the idea that my research can help improve the usability of everyday security tools for common technology like email.

What is the coolest thing about your research?

The coolest thing about my research right now is speaking with various security experts, learning about encryption and learning about all the things that can go wrong with an email account. You’d be surprised at what could happen!

What is the most challenging part of research for you?

Currently, the most challenging part of my research is choosing just one thing to focus on. I am learning so much cool information that it’s difficult to focus on one thing since everything sounds fun. The other challenge is completing the actual research. Even though I believe it will be enjoyable overall, I am sure there will be some hurdles along the way.

My Grad School Experience

Why did you choose to go to Grad School?

I chose to go to grad school because I knew I wanted to teach at the collegiate level, which requires a PhD.

Do you ever feel discouraged? How do you get around that?

I had a hard time transferring from a HBCU to a PWI after my freshman year of college. I had no friends at my new school, no one wanted to study with me and my courses were harder since I changed my major from Math to Electrical Engineering. My pride kept me from seeking help and my fear of being labeled “stupid” stopped me from asking questions. After a tough first year at my new school, I was ready to transfer again. That’s when my grandmother told me her story. She was enrolled in nursing school, raised four children and did both of these things in a racist environment. This hate-filled era was an unfortunate reality for many melanin geniuses in the past. Her story inspired me and I overcame my discouragement by simply choosing to do so. I got a tutor, studied with international students and found a more personable adviser. I reminded myself each day why I was in school and what it would mean if I made it through.

Who are some of your biggest cheerleaders?

My biggest cheerleaders are my parents, siblings, nephews and grandparents.

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

You can do it! Like really, you CAN do it. Stay focused and it will all be worth it in the end.

What has been the most useful life advice you have received?

I have a few inspirational phrases and a scripture that help fuel my motivation:

  • Stop caring about what other people think about you. There is no way you could have come this far if you weren’t intelligent.
  • Don’t hide your genius.
  • If you make a cake, pass the recipe along to those who come after you.
  • Romans 8:31

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