Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles highlighting the diverse group of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory summer students.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) student internship program is designed to allow students to engage in work-study employment opportunities in relevant science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and administrative fields during the summer academic break. This year, LLNL is proud to welcome more than 600 students from universities nationwide and around the world.
Introducing: Jasmine Bowers
Full name: Jasmine Bowers
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
University attending/educational background: In May 2013, I completed dual bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and computer science from Fort Valley State University in Georgia. In May 2015, I completed a master’s in computer science with an emphasis in information assurance from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. I am beginning my doctorate studies in computer science at the University of Florida.
Major: Computer science
Graduation year: To be determined
LLNL Directorate you are working in: Computation
What interested you in pursuing a summer internship at the Laboratory?
I attended the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing in 2013, months before graduation. There, I met Tony Baylis, director of the Office of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Programs at LLNL. Tony introduced me to the Lab and the Cyber Defenders program. I was planning to study cybersecurity during graduate school and thought that the Cyber Defenders program would be an awesome opportunity to gain exposure to a real-world application of cybersecurity.
What are you working on at the Laboratory?
I spent my summer working with a group of cyber defenders on a project designed to teach middle school students how to program on raspberry pi computers. In addition, I am working with Tony Bartoletti on a project designed to improve network security.
What do you enjoy most about interning at the Laboratory?
I enjoy the collaborative environment. It allows us as interns to have the opportunity to brainstorm amongst ourselves and develop ideas and strategies to solve real-world problems.
What have you learned (or are learning) that has made a difference to you?
I have learned that it is important to expose myself to a plethora of topics in my field while also developing an expertise in a specific subject area.
Where do you see yourself after graduation? What is your dream job?
Upon graduation, I plan to operate a nonprofit organization that provides technical resources, curricula and tools for students in underrepresented communities. In addition, I plan to teach undergraduate cybersecurity courses while serving as a community development and academic adviser.
Who/what has inspired you to pursue an education and career in a STEM field?
Many of my teachers, professors and mentors have inspired me to pursue a career in computer science, although it was my mother, grandmother and aunt who were always my greatest motivators. As a teacher, my aunt always gave of herself to her children, and I admired her for it. My mother, a tech geek, always introduced me to the newest technology and allowed me to explore. My grandmother pushed me to do whatever I aspired to do with diligence and to pursue excellence. These three individuals inevitably contributed to my desire to teach and increase the number of African American students in computer science.
What has been your biggest challenge to overcome?
My greatest obstacle was overcoming the impostor syndrome. It is something that I constantly encounter, but have made a conscious effort to address. I learned from mentors, including Kevin Griffin, my 2014 LLNL technical lead, that although I may not know everything at the moment, I have the capacity to learn anything that my heart desires. Now, more than ever, I feel confident in my abilities.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
By far, my most meaningful achievement was earning a master's degree, for several reasons. On graduation day, my aunt gently whispered in my ear “you’re the first in our family.” Hearing those words humbled me, as I realized that I would soon be able to take care of those who once took care of me. My mother, aunt and grandmother have been inspirational women in my life, and I continue to work hard to make them proud.
In addition, earning the degree was most meaningful for it opened so many doors for me to pursue further goals, including a doctorate. Although the numbers are increasing, there is still a small population of African American women with graduate degrees in computer science. By earning a master’s and soon a doctorate, I will be able to leverage my expertise and work in various areas to increase the number of African American women in computer science and technology. One of my ultimate goals is to develop elementary and middle school computer science curricula with a focus in cybersecurity that will ultimately increase the number of underrepresented youth interested in computer science and technology.
Lastly, my degree affords me the opportunity to teach in many classroom environments, from elementary to collegiate. During my final semester, I worked closely with my former elementary school faculty on how we could transition the computer class into a full computer science program. In addition, I had the opportunity to teach students from second to fifth grade, how to incorporate technology in their science fair projects.
As a college student, what is the most important lesson you have learned?
Earning a master’s has ultimately changed my life and I look forward to even more opportunities once I finish my doctoral degree studies. In college, I learned that “things happen” and there are some things that we cannot control. I always hold the serenity prayer near and dear to my heart, for as we go through life, we must have the courage to change what we can but the serenity to accept the things we cannot.
What advice would you give a high school student?
All high school students should know that each class they are taking is a stepping stone toward their career and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I regret the fact that I was fully immersed in my math and computer classes, but neglected history. In addition, I would reassure them that they have the aptitude to study any subject that they desire in college and can achieve any goal that they put their mind to.
What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
Money management is a passion of mine that I developed during my first year in college. I began teaching small budgeting classes on campus and later provided one-on-one coaching for friends and colleagues. It is a skill that I would like to share with anyone willing to listen. I also love to play basketball and rollerblade.
What is next for you/what are you looking forward to?
This fall I will begin my Ph.D program at the University of Florida as a GEM Fellow. I am extremely excited about the opportunity and look forward to not only becoming an expert in cybersecurity, but also having the opportunity to infuse my passion for education into my dissertation.