Consider the top 30 innovations in the last 30 years, and Tracy Camp will tell you that none of them would have happened without computer science. “Think of what computer science has done for our world,” says Camp, a computer science professor at Mines. “Online shopping, medical applications, robotic surgeries, DNA mapping—all that stuff has been created or vastly improved because of computer science.”
Camp came to Mines in 1998; since then she has moved up in her role from assistant to full professor. She currently teaches the introduction to programming course, Programming Concepts in C++. In her class, students develop a final project related to a topic they’re passionate about, such as a game or data storage utility.
Looking at Camp’s resume (25 pages of grants, awards, and publications), you might assume she knew at an early age that she wanted to be a teacher, but that wasn’t the case. Although she loved logic and math as a child, she didn’t have any interest in teaching. It wasn’t until she was ready to graduate from Michigan State University with her master’s degree in computer science that her parents encouraged her to pursue a PhD.
After receiving a PhD in computer science from the College of William and Mary, Camp began working at the University of Alabama. A few years later, she and her husband decided to move west, and Camp wanted to work at a smaller school. So, they pulled out a map of the United States, and Camp applied to four schools. Although she received three interview offers, she only accepted one of them: Mines.
When she’s not teaching, Camp is focused on three areas: technical research, educational research, and women in computing. In total, her research projects have received more than $20 million in external funding. She has been awarded more than 20 grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), including a prestigious NSF CAREER award.
Camp is an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Fellow, and recently, she also became an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow for her contributions to wireless networking. “Within my research area, there are only eight women that are both ACM and IEEE fellows,” Camp said. “I am the first ACM fellow at Mines and the first IEEE female fellow at Mines. We need more!”
The lack of women in Camp’s field is something she works on here at Mines. “Research shows that a diverse team creates a better product, so we need diverse teams. And to accomplish that, we need more women at the table,” she said.
To that end, Camp works with the CRA-W (Computing Research Association—Women). She also serves as the faculty advisor for the ACM women’s student chapter at Mines, through which she founded “Discovering Technology,” an after-school STEM program for elementary school girls that includes computer science education. Approximately 300 girls in grades 3-6 visit Mines each semester to learn about a different science and engineering topic. The program has been so successful that Camp is expanding it to include a separate day for girls in grades 7-8.
“We’re currently at about 13 percent female computer science undergraduate students at Mines, which is a bit less than the roughly 15 percent national average,” Camp said. “My goal is to move Mines to 25 percent women in both the computer science major and the computer science minor by 2020.”