Scholar, researcher, leader: IST sophomore is ready for more

Alyssa Inman
October 19, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When she returned to the University Park campus this fall as a sophomore, Emma Dodoo had already completed a full college career’s worth of experiences. Now, as a member of the Millennium Scholars Program, a student leader and a seasoned researcher, she is looking forward to taking on even more.

After growing up in State College, Pennsylvania, and attending elementary school and some of middle school in the area, her family moved to Ghana, where her father was conducting research. It was at Ashesi University College that she was first exposed to computer programming during a three-week long course.

“It was amazing getting something from little individual pieces to something that actually works and moves,” said Dodoo about her first experience building and programming robots.

She did not leave her passion for robotics behind after she left Ghana. When she returned to State College every summer after attending Ghana International School for high school, she spent these months attending robotics camps hosted by the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) on the University Park campus.

Before her first year at Penn State, she participated in a six-week Summer Bridge program to kick off her time in the Millennium Scholars Program (MSP), a program for high-achieving students in STEM-related disciplines. During the summer, Dodoo completed seven credits of coursework and worked long hours to become an official Millennium Scholar among only 20 other students.

“[The program] helped me decide that I wanted to do research,” Dodoo said. “I am interested in how people interact with technology."

Having found a path to follow, Dodoo researched positions through the National Science Foundation and landed a spot in a research program at Iowa State University, with only 11 other students.

At Iowa State, Dodoo worked on a variety of projects related to virtual reality in manufacturing, such as creating a training environment that used the technology to teach new employees how to create certain products. Upon completing the program, she received a recommendation for admission into Iowa State’s Human-Computer Interaction graduate program.

Though she’s unsure of what she wants to do after completing her bachelor’s degree, Dodoo was flattered. “They saw my work ethic and how hard I worked this summer,” she said.

Not one to rest on her accomplishments, she recently attended the CRA-W Grace Hopper Celebration Research Scholars Program, a three-day conference that provides attendees with a mentor, networking opportunities, and advising toward graduate school and research careers in computing.

Now double majoring in information sciences and technology (IST) and math, with a minor in sociology, Dodoo contributes much of her success to the support of her parents.

“They are always telling me to keep working and keep praying and that’s how you’re going to find exactly what you want,” Dodoo said. “If didn’t have them, I don’t know where I would be.”

And though her family is close to campus, Dodoo found a new support network on campus — which includes Jason Gines, IST’s director of inclusion and diversity engagement — to help her manage priorities and remain focused on her goals.

“Good things happen for students who work hard, comport themselves as an active scholar engaged in the IST community, and have a plan for success that they are working towards every day,” Gines said. “Emma is really amazing and our entire IST community should be proud of her accomplishments and contributions.”

When she is not in class, conducting research or traveling to conferences, Dodoo is an active member of BLUEprint, a mentoring program for freshman and transfer students of color. She serves as the president of Women International Racial Ethnic Diversity Intercultural Network (WIRED IN), a club that unites underrepresented students in the College of IST, and is in training to become an IST Diplomat, which would allow her to serve as a representative for a variety of the college’s activities.

With a full plate of clubs and academics, Dodoo still finds time to appreciate Penn State and the community.

“I love the school spirit. You see it especially when there’s a game and people come from miles away,” Dodoo said. “You can be walking across campus, and there’s always somebody you know saying ‘hi’ to you.”

Dodoo has also fallen in love with IST and the potential for its impact on solving real-world problems.

“I feel like IST is the bridge between technology and the world outside. IST gives you so many opportunities; you just have to find and pick the right one," she said.

  • Emma Dodoo tries on a pair of Google Glasses.

    Emma Dodoo tries on a pair of Google Glasses.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated October 19, 2017