Author: Adiki Puplampu
Date: 24 November 2023
A creative, an extrovert, a passionate volunteer, and an emerging computer scientist. Hamidat Bello is all these things and more, and this year, she’s adding ELITE Program intern to her résumé. In September, Hamidat will begin her first year as a computer science major after transferring from the neuroscience program.
Introduced to the ELITE Program through the University of Alberta Black Students’ Association (UBSA), Hamidat’s interest in the program was piqued by the integrated program structure that merges academic instruction with real world application. The program presented an opportunity for her to learn and contribute to a project with tangible impact, a major attraction for Hamidat.
This summer, Hamidat put her skills to use at the Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory (RRL). Her main responsibility is to contribute to project data validation. To do this, she created a computer program for pre-processing data repositories and employs rigorous statistical analysis to validate the efficiency of wheelchair technology.
This internship is one of Hamidat’s first in-office work experiences, and she’s been struck by how different the world of work is from school. In school, once a project is complete, it is submitted and it’s onto the next assignment. That’s not the case with research projects, where more often than not there’s no definitive conclusion to the work. Where she used to be intimidated by this idea, Hamidat now sees it as motivation to continually improve her work.
When she thinks about her dream job, Hamidat envisions a position as a machine learning engineer, working and building with code, but also having enough time to volunteer on the side. Her passion for giving back is demonstrated by the many projects and initiatives she’s already involved in, from her role as Chief Vice President of NeurAlberta Tech, an organization that provides a safe space for people who want to learn and grown in neuroscience, to her position over the summer as Vice President Internal of Blueprint at the University of Alberta, a group that codes apps for in-need groups pro-bono, and her own website Athena Codes. A resource for women in computing science, Athena Codes features a scholarship board, an internship board, and spotlights stories of inspirational women in the field of computer science. Hamidat was compelled to develop the site after transferring into computer science and noticing a gap in information available to students looking to break into the field.
“There are so many roles and positions and scholarships that these women in computing science could be applying to and all these inspirational women who just aren’t getting highlighted so that was something that I just didn’t like. So that’s kind of why I created the website just to centralize those resources especially for university students.”
While the site is targeted towards women, who are typically underrepresented in tech, it’s a resource that anyone can use.
Three months into her internship, her biggest takeaway is the relationships she’s developed with her peers and supervisors. From Dr. Martin Ferguson-Pell to the other ELITE Program interns in the lab, Hamidat is continually inspired and enriched by the people around her. Creating connections with professionals in the tech industry and peers who are equally motivated has been a highlight of her internship experience.