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Siobahn C. Day is officially the first woman to earn a PhD in computer science at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

According to NC A&T, Day successfully defended her dissertation on Thursday. “It’s surreal,” she said.  “Sometimes you think you aren’t good enough and it’s a lot of pressure but it’s an honor.”

Dr. Day’s research looks at author attribution, privacy, security, and social computing.

“With the prevalence of ‘fake news,’ ‘alternative facts’ and cyber-crimes it has become difficult to determine originating sources on online social networks,” Day said. “By looking at the natural language of tweets, we could tell who the author was.”

Both Day and her thesis supervisor Mohd Anwar, an associate professor of computer science at NC A&T, hope the research will provide a solution to determining the sources of fake news as well as a preventative measure in stalling these types of occurrences.

North Carolina A&T’s computer science department, which is a part of the College of Engineering, does research funded by the National Security Agency, National Science Foundation, U. S. Air Force and  U.S. Navy commands, NASA, and many other federal agencies.

Day hopes to continue her research with Anwar and start work as a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at University of North Carolina in the fall.  Over the past decade, she has served as an adjunct instructor at colleges and universities, where she taught courses in computer science. She has also delivered presentations on technology at numerous conferences.

In a recent survey, the National Center for Women in Technology found that girls and women are significantly underrepresented in the creation of technology even though they are avid users of tech gadgets. Only 18% of all undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees are earned by women.

“The number of women in computer sciences is very low and it is tough to be a woman in a male-dominated field,” Day said. “You have to have a level of dedication and determination because it can feel unwelcoming. But it gives me opportunity to help change how people see women and African Americans in this field.”

Over the past three years, Day’s research was supported by the Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellows Program, which advances African American doctoral leaders in computer science, computational science and engineering, and related areas. The fellowship, consisting of a $30,000 stipend plus tuition, fees and health insurance benefits, is awarded one year at a time and may be renewed each year based on satisfactory performance.

Day, a Durham, North Carolina native, earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Winston-Salem State University in 2005.

Mentored by Elva Jones, who has focused her teaching, research and outreach in analysis and visualization of NASA data and Robotics as a tool to attract African American students to the field of computer science, Day went on to earn a master’s degree in Information Science from North Carolina Central University in 2009.

In April 2015, Day created the Dreams Creative Group, offering unique web and graphic design solutions. She also serves as a volunteer for FIRST North Carolina, Girl Scouts of America, and Black Girls Code.

By 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates there will be more than 1.4 million computing-related job openings. At current rates, however, the U.S. can only fill about 30% of those jobs with U.S. computing bachelor’s grads.

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