Rebecca Nesson

Graduate Program: Computer Science Ph.D., 2nd Year

Subject: Computer Science

Partner Teacher: Rosalie Williams

Other Areas of Involvement: Support and development of computer-based physical science education activities.

Personal Website:

Short Bio: I was born and raised in Cambridge, MA. I graduated from Cambridge Rindge & Latin high school in 1994. I graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Folklore & Mythology in 1998. Not knowing what to do, I entered Harvard Law School from which I graduated in 2001. While in law school I became interested in computer science as well as the reasons why I had not been interested in computer science in high school and college. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science at Harvard. In the future I am interested in teaching computer science either at the high school or college level and working on the seemingly very challenging problem of getting minority students and girls interested in computer science at a younger age. In my spare time I like to cook, run and hike, listen to music, watch movies that show me living environments very different from my own, and build fun/educational animations.

Area of Research: I study computational linguistics, which is the sub-field of artificial intelligence concerned with buildings computers that can communicate in languages that humans speak, such as English. In particular, I study formalisms that can be used to parse sentences into their grammatical structure while simultaneously building a representation of the meaning of the sentences. I love this area of research because it is fundamentally concerned both with the investigation of how our minds work and the investigation of how best to use computers to solve hard problems.

Reason for Involvement in the GK-12 Program: I participate in the GK-12 program for several reasons. First, I believe that I may in the future want to be a high school teacher. I feel that it is an extremely challenging and important job and I can use all the mentoring and experience I can get before I try it myself. Second, I am committed to getting to the bottom of whatever it is that turns many girls and minority students off of computer science before they even have a chance to see how cool it is. Participating in the GK-12 program lets me watch this process up close and gives me the opportunity to start working on it right away. Third, I enjoy being the classroom working with high-school age students.