Computer Science graduate student wins regional STEM thesis competition

Hajar Homayouni, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science at Colorado State University, recently won the Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS)/ProQuest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award for her research in data warehouse assurance.

Competing with theses from across the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, her winning thesis was recognized for its originality, significance, quality and outcomes. The award includes a certificate, $1,000, and paid travel expenses to the WAGS conference and awards luncheon.

Founded over 60 years ago, WAGS is comprised of over 200 higher education institutions that offer masters and doctoral degrees in the Western United States, Canada, Mexico and the Pacific Rim. The organization is a regional affiliate of the national Council of Graduate Schools.

Creating impact

Homayouni’s thesis examines data transformations – called Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) processes – that are used when storing information in data warehouses. Working with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, she focused on quality assurance of health data with the goal of ensuring accuracy in an industry where informed decisions are especially crucial.

“Health data is important because it influences human lives,” she said. “It has worldwide effects.”

Homayouni says that this award has been meaningful to her because it affirms the importance of her work, which she is now continuing as a Ph.D. student. She still researches data warehouse assurance, but instead of testing translations, she’s testing the data itself to improve accuracy in diagnostics, using AI techniques to examine outliers and report incorrect data.

Homayouni also sees the award as something bigger – an important recognition of the increasing presence and influence of women in computer science.

The Department of Computer Science at CSU has been working to address the need for more women in the field and build community in a discipline known for its diversity challenges. Homayouni’s award shines a light on the high-quality work, talent, and achievements of women in computer science.

“I am really happy that a woman has been selected in this topic,” Homayouni said. “I would hate for any subject to be seen as something women are unable to do. I think we should encourage more female students in computer science, and know that it is not a major just for men.”