Iqra (“ik-ra”) Dada, a rising senior in computer science at Rice and summer intern in technology development for AT&T, blends her passion for CS with a wide range of other interests including the Rice Coalition on Hunger and Homelessness, Muslim Student Association, and O-Week. “My favorite thing is how involved everyone is on campus, it really makes me feel like I belong,” she said.
She also appreciates the amount of diversity represented in the CS department. “Computer Science at Rice is really awesome because we are so diverse. Usually, CS is a field with the fewest minority groups and female-to-male ratios. It’s pretty incredible that we have such a good mix at Rice in CS.”
Her own gateway to CS came through a course she took in her freshman year of high school. “I really liked that first CS class,” she said, “because after learning all the little things over the course of the year, we were challenged to build a game on our own using Python. It felt cool to have acquired the skills to build something that actually worked in such a short time, and that inspired me to pursue it even further.”
Not only did she pursue CS as a major, she also got involved with the CS Club and HackRice, then became president of Rice Code College. Founded by Radina Khalid (CHBE ‘16) in 2015, RCC provides an opportunity for middle school students to explore STEM activities like creating a video game. After working with Khalid on the first program, Dada became president of the group and spent several months in a lengthy planning process for the second annual event.
Dada said, “Logistically, the issues we had began with reaching out to students that come from low socioeconomic backgrounds We had to go through the schools, which have strict policies about promoting events.” She said they also faced hurdles getting funded and finding a sponsor to reserve space on campus. “But the CS Club was awesome about that [room reservation sponsorship] and gave us a lot of help.”
The Saturday event has become her favorite CS-related experience. Dada said. “I cannot express how rewarding it is to be able to share what I know with young students who want to learn, and to be able to expand their dreams farther than they could have imagined. It’s awesome to be able to show them their own capabilities and expose them to all the career options available to them. RCC is definitely something I put my heart into.”
Dada also throws her heart into her department and has discovered a wealth of close-knit relationships as a result. “I love that I’ve really gotten to know the people I take courses with. I’m Muslim and female and Pakistani, but I feel totally integrated. I also think CS has some of the most passionate professors on campus. Even though something like that can’t really be measured, it is priceless!”
-Juliann Bi, Computer Science Assistant Publicist