I’m a Computer Scientist, and I Have the Shirt to Prove It

Ever since I first saw this shirt, I’ve wanted one for computer scientists.  It’s a less in-your-face way of saying “yeah buddy, check your biases!”  I finally went ahead, modified the linked shirt appropriately, and ordered one, and should be getting it soon.

I am so oddly excited.

When people ask me what I do, they are often taken aback when I tell them, “I’m a college professor”.  They’re even more floored when I tell them I teach computer science.  I don’t fit the type:  I’m female; I love sports; I’d rather cook or read than take apart my computer on the weekend; I didn’t grow up surrounded by techie role models.  Heck, I didn’t even learn to program until college (a disastrous experience that nearly turned me off to computing forever…but that’s a subject for another post).  So I spend a lot of time explaining myself, correcting people’s assumptions (no, I’m not a student, or the admin, or that techie’s girlfriend/wife), and trying to figure out how I fit in.

The thing is, computer science, and engineering before that….they really grabbed me.  There’s something so magical and beautiful about good engineering, good design, technology, problem-solving.  I’m really proud of what I do for a living, and I can’t imagine not being a techie.  So even though I see myself as a computer scientist, it’s pretty jarring when I (often) encounter people who don’t see me that way.

Hence the t-shirt.  Not that I expect it to solve the world’s problems or anything, but I view it as my little, subversive way of asking people to question their own preconceptions of what it means to be a computer scientist.  Which, I hope, leads people to question how we do computer science, and what computer science can and should do and be.

This is kind of how I view this blog, too.  I envision this as a space where I can talk about my teaching and my research, but also as a space to question the culture and preconceptions surrounding computer science as a field—the ones those outside the field hold, but also the ones those of us inside the field hold.  Because someday, I’d like to say to someone “I’m a computer scientist” and have them respond “Of course you are”, with no hint of irony or sarcasm.