Born in 2021: Computer science graduate Allyson Senger accelerates the path to teaching | VTx
Allyson Senger enjoyed logic from a young age. She loved solving the logic puzzle books she received as a child in Mount Sidney, Virginia. Her great-uncle was known for giving her math brain teasers at family gatherings that would keep her thinking about it all night and coming back with her solutions.
Later in high school, she took her first computer science class through her participation in the Commonwealth’s Governor’s School program. There she also learned how to solve a Rubik’s Cube and solve Einstein’s logic puzzles. She attributes this experience to her current passion for technology.
Fast forward to today.
Senger works with Linux operating systems which allow her to completely erase the operating system and block the computer.
“That may sound like a terrifying thing, but being able to access this lower level of a computer was something I hadn’t seen here before I went to computer science,” said Senger, who will graduate from Virginia Tech with both of them later this semester Bachelor and Master in Computer Science. She succeeded in doing this through the five-year accelerated bachelor’s / master’s degree in the Computer Science Department.
Senger said that after returning to Java after Linux, she could appreciate the work without asking. “Java (and other high-level languages) made programming much more accessible and easier for people to do without having to work with a computer all their lives,” she said. “I think that’s really important if we want to have a more diverse field of computer scientists.”
As a member of the accelerated program, Senger began graduate studies before completing her undergraduate degree. When she received her Bachelor of Science degree in spring 2020, she had already completed three advanced courses.
As she prepares to participate in her first personal start, Senger will be the third in her family to graduate from Virginia Tech after her father and grandfather, who both also have engineering degrees.
“When I got interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), I knew I wanted to go to Virginia Tech,” she said. “The accelerated program allowed me to explore my interests earlier in my academic career. I got my bachelor’s degree in three years so I was able to start research at the age of a typical college junior. I was able to experience my interests in education and teaching in the time that would normally have taken for an undergraduate degree. “
Senger also had the special opportunity to be part of the New Horizon Graduate Scholars Program, she received a nomination from the Institute for Computer Science. Managed by the Center for the promotion of engineering diversity by doing College of Engineers, the program supports and enhances the diversity of the Virginia Tech student body. Resources and opportunities are available to the New Horizon community, including monthly professional development workshops, lunch and dinner with invited guest speakers from industry and academia, and places to participate in critical reading and writing groups – all of which fuel participants’ academic careers while studying Virginia Tech.
For Senger, this environment gave her the opportunity to get in touch with other computer science students. It also cemented her love of teaching and gave her a special opportunity to develop her research even further, as she was able to build her research on the research on automated graders conducted by her Professor Stephen Edwards, who also serves as the assistant department head for an undergraduate degree.
Senger’s research focuses on digital education in computer science, which includes the use of a static analysis tool that finds errors in students’ computer code. The messages it contains are then recorded and rewritten by Senger to help novice programmers learn from their mistakes.
The impact of her research has resulted in real-world applications as she is currently used in all Java programming courses at Virginia Tech.
While Senger debugged lines of code, she immediately spent hours playing the mellophone in the Marching Virginians of Virginia Tech. “As part of the Marching Virginians, I learned early on in my academic career how to structure my time and balance academics with extracurricular activities,” she said.