Tabriz Delivers a Message About Adaptability and Purpose – Illinois Computer Science News

A foundation that fueled her success

Tabriz believes that the foundation for her planning and ensuing success was formed right here at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as an Illinois CS student.

This thought solidified in her mind, as she strolled campus the day before graduation took place. Tabriz started near the South Quad, visiting the new Siebel Center for Design and ended at another new building – the Campus Instructional Facility near the Engineering Library.

“In technology, we’re serving people, so it’s important to understand society, history, psychology, political science, and other liberal arts and humanities,” Tabriz said.

Both buildings’ designs were centered on collaborative learning and open discussion spaces; they reminded Tabriz of the unique environment of this university, and how spaces are created for serendipitous connection and innovation.

“Seeing these gorgeous spaces made me want to go back to college,” Tabriz said. “To a certain extent, I believe it’s true that youth is wasted on the young. I didn’t spend nearly enough time south of Green Street. I was focused on building engineering skills when I was a student here, and I didn’t really appreciate how important creating those interdisciplinary, cross-functional connections are to solving real world problems.

 “I was encouraged to hear (Grainger Engineering) Dean Rashid Bashir speak to me about the focus here in cross-discipline engineering education. In a world that’s messy, engineering is the art of constraint – and that constraint often comes from things outside of math or physics.”

A new generation of CS students, uniquely situated for success

Encouraged by the collaborative spirit at Grainger Engineering, Tabriz believes the next generation’s capabilities are enormous – especially in her field.

A group of Illinois CS students listen to alumna Parisa Tabriz speak.
A group of Illinois CS students and others from the Women in Engineering student group, had lunch and met with Parisa Tabriz on Friday – one day before Grainger Engineering Convocation took place.

When she first came to campus as a student, Tabriz got her first personal computer and first access to high speed Internet. By the time she graduated, she had her first cell phone. Fast forward just 15 years, and that technology is as ubiquitous as the electrical grid.

“Technology has advanced at a pace faster than we can even fully comprehend over a relatively short time, and I’m excited to know that the future is in the hands of today’s students,” she said.

It helps to make the most of a well-rounded computing education, which Tabriz did while here.

Tabriz recalled taking her first class in Artificial Intelligence and learning the basics of neural networks, while also taking electives in law and business. She dabbled in research for the first time, with guidance from professors Bill O’Brien, Jr. and Nikita Boris who taught her the power of approaching open-ended problems and thinking about the big picture.

With similar experiences now under their belt, Tabriz greatly anticipates what this year’s CS graduates will accomplish in areas like natural language processing, which can be used for translation, robotics and autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles, the continued application of Machine Learning to a range of topics, and the proliferation of wearables and shared screens.

“One of the things that gives me hope and optimism is that today’s students are now so much more socially conscious. They think about the impact of technology on the environment, society, and democracy. Combine that with proliferation of computing, massive data sets, ongoing advancements in algorithms, and it’s clear the next tech leaders will have greater capabilities to solve problems than ever before. Of course, they will also encounter new problems that never existed before, too.”

Parisa Tabriz, when discussing the amazing potential of current CS students.

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