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UC San Diego’s Christine Alvarado Will Help Lead CRA’s UR2PhD National Mentoring Program

The program aims to increase the percentage of women entering PhD programs by at least 15% per year, with even higher increases for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

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The Computing Research Association (CRA) announced this week that it has received a $5 million grant from a philanthropic partner to support the Undergraduate Research to the PhD (UR2PhD) program. UR2PhD (read as “you are 2 PhD”) focuses on engaging more women who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents in computing science PhD programs through a virtual, nationally managed approach to quality undergraduate research opportunities and to bridging the gap to PhD applications.

Christine Alvarado is a teaching professor in UC San Diego’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the associate dean for the division of undergraduate education at UC San Diego. She will be one of four UR2PhD program leaders who have extensive experience developing large-scale programs.

Christine Alvarado portrait
UC San DIego's Christine Alvarado will be one of four leads of the UR2PhD program that seeks to increase the number of women entering PhD programs. 

In 2014, Alvarado founded the CSE Early Research Scholars Program (ERSP), which has engaged 339 early undergraduates (~50 per year) in computing research at UC San Diego, including 200 women and non-binary students and 75 students from underrepresented racial groups. She has overseen ERSP’s expansion to seven universities.

“ERSP has really opened the door to computing research for many students, especially women students,” said Alvarado. “This program takes the structure of ERSP to a national scale to welcome women from across the United States into CS research, and then builds on this structure to close the gap between first research experience and graduate school for these students.”

Project Goals

The U.S. role as a tech leader depends on both the number and diversity of PhDs graduating in computing, according to the CRA. Researchers with computing PhDs – particularly those in the artificial intelligence/machine learning field – shape our technology, and hence society in the United States and beyond. CRA Taulbee survey data from 2021 indicates that only 23.3% of computer science PhDs who graduated in the 2020-21 academic year identified as women, and 68.7% of those women were nonresidents. There is an urgent need to increase the number and percentage of women who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents who earn PhDs in computing and become leaders in technology research, according to the CRA.

UR2PhD is a new project to increase the percentage of women entering PhD programs by at least 15% per year, with even higher increases for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

About CRA

CRA represents more than 250 North American organizations active in computing research: academic departments of computer science and computer engineering; laboratories and centers in industry, government, and academia; and affiliated professional societies. Its mission is to catalyze computing research by joining with industry, government, and academia – a role it plays by leading the computing research community; informing policymakers and the public, and championing a diverse, welcoming, equitable, and socially responsible computing research community.

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