Have you ever wondered what you will actually do in graduate school? You may have heard about seminar classes and thesis defenses or wondered how you figure out what kind of research projects are acceptable. Don't let these questions deter you from considering graduate school. The members of this panel will discuss, from their own experiences, some of the issues that concerned them when considering and entering grad school. They will also answer your questions about the uncertainties you have about graduate studies.

Arturo Deza, Panelist

Arturo Deza received his B.Sc. in Robotics (Ingeniería Mecatrónica) in 2012 from Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería in Lima, Peru. He then completed his Ph.D. in Dynamical Neuroscience at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2018 advised by Miguel Eckstein where he began his research on visual search and foveated vision in humans and machines. In 2019, Arturo moved to Harvard University as a PostDoctoral Fellow with Talia Konkle at the Department of Psychology, and from early 2020 to date he is a PostDoctoral Research Associate working with Tomaso Poggio at MIT’s Center for Brains, Minds and Machines. His research interests span across the fields of psychophysics, representation learning, human-machine perception, and robotics. Easter-Egg: Influenced by his surfing and his research, Arturo is also an artist and he has had his first solo exhibition in Massachusetts's Gallery in the Summer of 2021. Some of his works are on view at research labs in Harvard + MIT.

Lily Sisouvong, Panelist

Lily Sisouvong is a program coordinator for a newly launched program for undergraduate students called “Pathways to Success in Computer Science” at URI. She received her Bachelors of Science in Computer Science in 2021, and is continuing her studies as a Masters student focusing on machine learning and the impact of gender bias on natural language processing models.

Noura Albarakati, Panelist

Noura Albarakati is a final-year Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science. she is interested in CS education, especially improving the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in CS. She is also interested in statistical learning, and predictive modeling.

Ronald Duarte, Panelist

Ronald Duarte is a Technical Staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in the Homeland Sensors and Analytics Group. His current work focuses on the research and development of video analytics and machine learning software/algorithms. He received a BS degree in 2011 and an MS degree in 2013, all in computer engineering from the University of Rhode Island. His graduate research work was on Improving Performance of Data-Parallel Applications on CPU-GPU Heterogeneous Systems.

Lisa DiPippo, Moderator


Learn about financial support during grad school: funding opportunities. This will be an open conversation with space for you to get any of your lingering questions answered and be prepared to make an informed decision about grad school or get ready before you start.

Brittany Lewis, Panelist

Brittany Lewis is a computer science PhD student at the University of Rhode Island working with Dr. Krishna Venkatasubramanian. Her research is in the intersection of HCI and security and focuses on increasing the accessibility of security and safety for people with disabilities. Much of her work has centered on improving the accessibility of login systems for people with upper body motor disabilities. She is a former Worcester Polytechnic Institute presidential fellow and was formerly awarded an honorable mention from the NSF graduate research fellowship program. She is currently funded as a graduate research assistant in the ASSET lab. For more information, see her website:

Cara Mitnick, Panelist

Cara Mitnick is Director of Professional Development Director at URI’s Graduate School where she provides professional skill building strategies and career coaching to master’s and PhD students in all disciplines, in all stages of their academic careers through workshops and individual advising appointments. She is also Administrative Director and a founder of URI’s Graduate Writing Center.

Cara has served as assistant dean for career services at University of San Diego School of Law, as a tax lawyer for a large international Wall Street law firm, and as a research analyst for the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in DC.

She holds a law degree from Northwestern, and a BA in International Relations from

Tufts University.

Joan Peckham, Panelist

Dr. Joan Peckham is Professor Emerita of Computer and Data Science at the University of Rhode Island (URI). She served as a program director at the National Science Foundation in 2008-2011. At URI she served as Chair of Computer Science & Statistics and led several initiatives, including: Campus-wide Coordinator of Big Data and Data Science, and Acting Director of CEMS (Collaborative for Explorations in Mathematics and Science). She was co-PI of the URI ADVANCE Institutional Transformation award in 2004-2008 to promote the careers of tenure-track women in STEM disciplines, and led an interdisciplinary NSF REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in art and computing. Her research is focused on data modeling in several domains including transportation and bioinformatics; and computing education. Currently she is working with colleagues from other institutions to formulate and articulate the concept of no-boundary (beyond interdisciplinary) research and education and its importance to data and artificial intelligence ethics. Her most recent (collaborative) publications were "No‑boundary thinking: a viable solution to ethical data‑driven AI in precision medicine” published in the journal AI Ethics and a chapter with colleagues at the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) in a monograph entitled “Big Data for Generals… and Everyone Else over 40”. Joan was the first woman tenure track professor in the URI CS/STA department, and the first in her family to graduate from college and the first to pursue a PhD.

Katia Vega, Panelist

Katia Vega is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Design at the University of California, Davis, where she founded and directs the Interactive Organisms Lab. Her research leads new explorations of organisms-device symbiosis. She was a Postdoc Associate at MIT Media Lab (USA). She got her PhD and master’s degree in computer science at PUC-Rio (Brazil). She was a researcher in the Fine Arts Department at HKBU (Hong Kong). Her undergraduate studies were done in Computer Science at UNMSM (Peru). She publishes at top-tier computer science conferences and journals including CHI, TEI, DIS, IUI and IEEE Computer. Her work has been featured by BBC, New Scientist, Wired, Discovery, CNN, and awarded by SXSW, Ars Electronica, Ubimedia Competition, among others. Springer published her book: “Beauty Technology: Designing Seamless Interfaces for Wearable Computing”.

Abdeltawab Hendawi, Moderator


This panel discusses the transition from graduate school to a professional career in academia or industry. Panelists will comment on their own journeys and provide advice on how to approach the decision of what option to pursue academia/industry/startup, current opportunities for PhDs or Masters in CS, how to stand out in the job market, starting salaries, building a successful career, and others.

Adrian Flowers, Panelist

Dr. B. Adrian Flowers is a senior research engineer at Aptima, Inc. with a specialization in cognition and perception in virtual, mixed, and augmented reality (XR) environments. He received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Rhode Island in 2018 and has applied this expertise towards the design and development of novel methodologies to mitigate the negative physiological and cognitive effects of XR systems, and the enhancement of human perceptual capabilities.

Derek Aguiar, Panelist

Derek Aguiar is an assistant professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University of Connecticut. He graduated from the University of Rhode Island with B.S. degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science and received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Brown University. His research aims to develop probabilistic machine learning models, combinatorial algorithms, and scalable inference methods to better understand high-dimensional data, particularly genomics and genetics data applied to complex diseases.

Suzanne Mello-Stark, Panelist

Suzanne Mello-Stark holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Rhode Island and is a faculty member of Rhode Island College’s Computer Science and Information Systems Department. She has published papers on election security and cybersecurity education and has been a GenCyber Program Director for the last seven years. The program, which is funded by the NSA, creates cybersecurity materials for high school students and hosts summer camps to increase diversity in cybersecurity. She serves on R.I. Congressman Langevin’s Cybersecurity Advisory Board and has led and served on numerous committees for the Anita Borg Institute, NCWIT, and Women in Cybersecurity. Suzanne has over twenty years of experience in software engineering and product management.

Ed Lamagna, Moderator