At first glance, one might think Northeastern University junior Tanya Cashorali was bent on outshining the competition. At only 21-years-old, her achievements include three co-op jobs with top cancer scientists, one grant-funded study on tumor development, and numerous presentations to world-renowned doctors. But this young prodigy isn’t out to beat the competition, she’s out to create more; a fleet of young women who study, teach, and conduct groundbreaking high-tech research.
Cashorali is shattering the glass ceiling for budding female computer scientists, and on her rise to the top, she’s taking her “CISters” with her.
CISters is Northeastern’s all-female computer and information science club, comprised of group president Cashorali and a team of gifted young women who want to attract more females to technology majors and careers. The club’s goal is to empower young women with mentorship, education, and interaction with accomplished role models in academia and industry.
Under Cashorali’s leadership, CISters has hosted lectures and networking events with guest speakers from IBM, Google, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and the Department of Defense. These events give students meaningful interaction with potential employers, providing a forum to meet the speakers and ask career-related questions.
“There are many misconceptions suggesting that computer science is, by nature, a male-dominated field.” states Cashorali. “It’s time to eliminate them and the boundaries they create. We need to go after young women and show them they can relate computer science to almost any field they are passionate about.”
Outside of CISters, transcending boundaries is a recurring theme for Cashorali. Defying typecasts linked to the average technophile, she enjoys such hobbies as DJing at Boston nightclubs, playing guitar, and checking out local bands at concert venues.
Her specialty, bioinformatics, also breaks boundaries, by blending molecular biology and computer science to transform raw data of the human genome into useful information for treating diseases. Cashorali has employed this unique skill-set in her co-op jobs at Harvard Partners, Children’s Hospital Boston, and now the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
At Dana Farber, Cashorali creates intranet applications that enable scientists to analyze their experiments at a closer level, thus creating a hybrid research model that blends the best of human and computer intelligence to identify cancer-causing proteins more efficiently. The goal is to use data from a person's genetic makeup to create strategies for diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases, also known as “personalized medicine.”
“Biology and computer science may seem like two disjointed fields, but in reality they are converging quickly, and for a very important cause,” states Cashorali.
Cashorali’s dream job would both allow her to make breakthroughs in personalized medicine, and closely mentor future generations of CISters. “My goal through CISters is to cultivate an interest among women in computer science,” she explains. “We’re doing this by showing that the field has important applications in the real world; in many cases, life-saving ones.”
Written from a news release by Northeastern University.