Computer Science Professor Mohammad Husain is on a mission to make his field more welcoming to women and minorities.
For the past four years, he’s worked tirelessly to help them succeed in computer science, cybersecurity and other STEM fields.
“What motivates me every moment of every day is students,” Husain says. “I am continually impressed by their incredible talent, desire to learn, and innovative ideas that have the potential to change the high-tech landscape.”
One of his achievements is helping students establish sheCodes, a 30 student-strong campus club that encourages females to pursue their passion for programming, an industry that is less than 20 percent women.
“We started because Dr. Husain and a few other students wanted to increase the number of women studying computer science. After joining the club and befriending more women in my major, I feel more comfortable and confident being in computer science,” says Melanie Cabalu, president of the club and a computer science student. “I’ve made many new friends and sheCodes gave me the opportunity to create those friendships. He’s helped us every step of the way and has connected us to incredible opportunities.”
Those opportunities have included a partnership and funding with Google and National Center for Women in Information Technology, which has spurred activities such as a Future Women Developers workshop for high-school and middle-school girls in the Pomona Unified School District.
Early in his career, Husain received over $2 million in grants from National Science Foundation and Department of Homeland Security to establish the first federally funded cybersecurity scholarship and training program at Cal Poly Pomona, allowing students to perform cybersecurity research and creating a pathway for jobs and internships. Industry giants such as Intel, Northrop Grumman and Microsoft also have awarded grants.
Husain’s teaching philosophy encourages critical thinking by assigning open-ended projects, especially on the senior level and in graduate classes. His classes promote creativity and teamwork so students can learn how to solve real-world issues.
“He really goes out of his way for his students,” says Max Wolotsky, a computer science student. “He cares for not only his own students, but ones that just need help. Alumni come back year after year to support him because he helped them so much in their career, and they want to give back.”
Husain says it’s important to build a pathway for women and underrepresented students even before they enter college. He channels his energies into outreach programs aimed at teenage girls and a National Security Agency summer camp called GenCyber to teach cybersecurity to 50 high school students.
“Bright young people come from backgrounds of all kinds. Any one of them could bring forward the next great idea or innovation,” he says. “It’s my hope that we can give them all the opportunity to succeed. It’s vital for them, the advancement of the field and for the country.”