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For most people, coding can seem like a foreign language. A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa graduating senior’s hopes of developing tools to make software creation easier has earned her a highly sought after National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.

Carol Wong is earning her undergraduate degree in the Department of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) and will be part of a five-year program that provides three years of financial support inclusive of an annual stipend of $37,000. Wong is the department’s first Hawaiʻi resident who has gone through its undergraduate program to receive the NSF fellowship. The Moanalua High School alumna will enter the graduate program in the fall, with the goal of earning a PhD.

“I honestly didn’t believe it. I’m really thankful and grateful to everyone who helped me—all my professors, friends, and family who supported me,” Wong said.

Wong’s project involves studying how software developers and data scientists deal with understanding software programming code. She will analyze large collections of software repositories and study how people read the code using an eye tracker, a device that tracks a person’s eye movements as they read and work with code. Through these approaches, she will gather insights into challenging areas of programming, including the typical mistakes programmers make. This research can lead to the development of better tools and techniques for helping programmers build high-quality and maintenance-friendly software applications. Wong is working under the guidance of ICS Assistant Professor Anthony Peruma.

“Carol’s proactive nature and her drive to immerse herself in research have been commendable,” Peruma said. “She has consistently demonstrated the skills and attitude necessary to undertake impactful and transformative research, all while giving back through service and outreach. As a woman in this field, she serves as a strong role model, inspiring and empowering women and underrepresented individuals in computing.”

If you just believe, just try and go for it.
—Carol Wong

Wong’s project could result in widespread improved efficiency in managing information (databases), communication (email, messaging apps), entertainment (video games, streaming services), productivity (word processing, spreadsheets), business operations (accounting software, customer relationship management), education (e-learning platforms, educational games), healthcare (electronic medical records, medical imaging software), transportation (navigation systems, traffic management) and much more.

“Before I applied or even while I was applying, I didn’t believe that I really had what it took. I told myself I would just try,” Wong said. “If you just believe, just try and go for it. …Receiving this, it feels like a new perspective on it, where I should put more of myself into this research that I enjoy doing.”

The Department of Information and Computer Sciences is housed in UH Mānoa’s College of Natural Sciences.

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