Jessica Jones

5th Year PhD Candidate
Human Centered Computing
University of Florida

About Me

My major was in Computer Science and I graduated from Hampton University. When I was younger at first I thought I would be an astronaut and then I wanted to be a scientist at NASA.

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

All in all I had a good experience with STEM when I was younger. Even when I struggled in classes, the teachers were always nice.

After grad school, what’s next?

I will go to work in a Department of Defense lab.


What do you do to unwind?

To unwind I listen to music, watch TV and spend time with family and friends.

My Research

My research involves the design, development, and evaluation of culturally relevant, reading focused intelligent tutoring systems. Specifically, I am interested in how we can use elements of African American culture, pedagogically sound instructional methods, and culturally relevant design to create a usable and effective sight word tutor.

Some of my interests outside of STEM are education and community service. When I saw that African American students are falling behind their peers (who are also struggling with reading), I knew that I should do something to help.

The coolest part of my research is that I get to combine several of my passions into one. I’m also excited at the prospect of my research having a real world impact.

For me, the hardest part of research is not knowing all the answers (lol). Computer scientists often think that we can develop our way out of problems. When we write code, most times, we know what is going to happen when we decide to “run.” In research, you don’t know anything for sure until you test it. The other challenging aspect of research is figuring out why certain things happen. Even though these are the toughest parts, they are what I love most about research.

My Grad School Experience

I chose to go to graduate school for four main reasons. The first reason is because I knew that it would help to qualify me for my dream job.  Second, getting a Ph.D. would allow me to explore topics about which I am passionate. Third, education is powerful. Once I have my degree, no one can ever take that from me. The final reason I decided to go to grad school is simply because I love school!

I sometimes become discouraged when I look ahead at my graduation timeline and all that I have to do. I overcome it by remembering all that I have accomplished already.

My family and friends are my biggest cheerleaders. Their support, encouragement and their pride propel me forward.

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

  1. You can do it. Don’t let imposter syndrome trick you into running away from opportunities and experiences.
  2. You’re not the only one. There are LOTS of us here. Reach out.
  3. Reach back. Although it may seem like you have a long way to go yourself, there is someone who wants to be where you are.

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

As a child my youth pastor used to say, “Pay now, play later.” This basically means that we must do what we have to do so that we can do what we want to do. Back then he was talking about school but it applies to every area of life.

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