June 01, 2021

An Interview with Eliana Valenzuela Andrade, #Tapia2021 Student Posters Chair

Eliana Valenzuela-Andrad Photo

Eliana Valenzuela Andrade is the Chairperson of the 2021 Tapia Conference Student Posters/ACM Student Research Competition and a Professor at University of Puerto Rico-Arecibo.  We spoke to Eliana about her career and her engagement with Tapia.

Tell me about where you grew up and what your parents did?

I was born in Bogota Colombia.  My mother was a housewife.  My father works for a government bank to coffee growers in Colombia.  Thirty years ago, all the money Colombia received was for coffee and there was a special bank to support loans to coffee growers.  I am the first and only person in my family to get a PhD.

How did you get into technology?

I did a degree at University in Colombia Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering. In my third year the Internet came to Colombia through my University.  I fell in love with technology and the internet.  New for everyone. I followed with a Master’s Degree at the University of PR in Management Systems, part of Industrial Engineering.  I fell in love with having a teaching career.  I went home to Colombia and was a faculty member there for 2 years. I required a PhD to continue in my academic career.  At that time, I had my husband and daughter so I returned to Puerto Rico for my PHD in computer science at UPR Mayaguez.  Afterwards I found a job at UPR.  

What are you working on now?

I teach all the senior year courses. I also work to engage more young people in Computer Science careers using robotics, Legos and physical platforms.  Last 3 years I have also been working on programs to engage more females in research careers in computing.   

How did you become involved with Tapia?  

In 2011 people told me about the Tapia conference.  I applied and got a scholarship to go to San Francisco.  Tapia taught me a lot of new things that I was missing in my career.  Tapia is an opportunity to do a lot of networking, show students it is possible to achieve their dreams.  It is like going to Disney for adults. I have been to Tapia four times and I am always happy to volunteer.

We are celebrating 20 years of Tapia Celebrating Diversity in Computing this year.  What would you like to see change in Computing in the next 20 years?

I want to see more women become engaged. Tapia needs to continue to engage with students.  We have a new reality.  I want to again be in person, it is very important for us to see other people, it is important to see the role models in real life.  We’ll have mixed virtual and in person in the future.  We    need more people like Richard Tapia to engage with the students.  When you see these people walking in the conference rooms it fills your soul with hope that I can do it, I can improve, these people are like me. 

You are doing the Posters this year – what are your goals and what sort of submissions would you like to see?

Very honored to have this opportunity.  Tapia provides a perfect environment to feel out who you are.  I want my students to have these opportunities.  Posters is an opportunity that is formal for the students to show what they are doing.  It is very important to provide this kind of experience and have diverse reviewers.  Tapia is a diverse space where everyone can contribute.