It was through elementary school math competitions that Lalitha Kuppa first discovered her affinity for math. “I kind of fell in love with that sort of problem solving and thinking in that manner,” Kuppa noted.

In 10th grade, she took her first computer science class and the rest is history.

As a third-year computer science major, Kuppa's achievements in the field and extensive involvement within Virginia Tech’s engineering community have earned her an Association for Computing Machinery Women (ACM-W) scholarship to attend the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis, also known as SC Conference.

Regarded as one of the largest high-performance computing conferences in the world, SC Conference host thousands of students, exhibitors, and presenters representing institutions of every shape and size. Kuppa, as seen below, checks out Submer's liquid submersion cooling station at the conference.

Undergraduate Lalitha Kuppa and Ph.D. student Greg Bolet at SC21.
Undergraduate Lalitha Kuppa and Ph.D. student Greg Bolet at SC21. Both are students of computer science professor Kirk Cameron. Photo provided by Lalitha Kuppa.

As an undergraduate leader of the Computer Systems Genome (CSG) research group, a project revolving around high-performance computing, Kuppa serves as an excellent role model for the computer science community. "Lalitha exhibits independence and drive in addition to her outstanding analytical thinking skills," said Margaret Ellis, computer science associate professor of practice, in her nomination letter to the ACM-W scholarship committee. As a part of the faculty-team lead for CSG, Ellis has observed firsthand the work of Kuppa and her partners, including analysis notebooks they have created and interactive memory timeline visualization with the team.  

She is also the director of administration for the Student Engineers’ Council, a department student ambassador, and an undergraduate teaching assistant for the computer systems course.

“In the technical environment here, I was really able to further my understanding," said Kuppa. "And I think my biggest accomplishment would be growing, getting a bunch of new experiences, jumping in, and taking initiative.”

Through her time on various research teams, Kuppa gained valuable experience in areas such as machine learning and even experimented with hardware during an independent study, where she researched Intel Optane DC Memory. “I think that was also a situation where I was really proud of myself just because that was something I’ve never really done before,” she said.

As a woman in STEM, Kuppa found groups such as the Hypatia and Galileo (Galipatia) residential community to be incredibly important for establishing a supportive network of both students and professors. Galipatia provides a  living-learning space for engineering students interested in exploring their ability to envision, create and transform ideas into action.

One experience in particular that she noted was applying for the $10,000 Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship, as a way to bring more gender diversity to the technology industry. “That was a really amazing process where I was able to talk to so many impactful women in STEM.”

Kuppa is expected to graduate this May and has accepted a full-time offer with LinkedIn as a software engineer in New York City.

However, graduate school is not off the table for Kuppa, who believes she would like to pursue it down the line. “Education in general has always been something that is really important to me. That’s something I definitely want to do and then continue growing, whether that be in an industry or in academia. No one knows, including me. So I guess we’ll see where life takes me.”

--Written by Gracie Daniels, a student intern with the Department of Computer Science.