UW Tacoma alumna Sophie Nop is passionate about getting underrepresented groups involved in science, technology, engineering and math (commonly referred to as STEM). Nop graduated in 2016 with a degree in computer science. While on campus she promoted STEM education in many ways including through the University’s youth-oriented Math Science Leadership Program.
In the year since she finished school Nop has been looking for ways to continue her work. She’d heard about the Fulbright program—a national scholarship that funds international educational exchanges—applied, and was awarded a grant. She’ll spend the next year in Cambodia doing participatory research with a non-governmental organization (NGO) to help identify STEM potential in students.
Nop’s interest in Cambodia is partly due to her heritage. “I have lineage in that country but I’ve never been,” she said. “My deep desire to learn about my ancestors’ history firsthand made it an easy choice for me to select Cambodia.”
Nop leaves in late September. Her research has two components. First, she’ll apply ethnographic research to study the digital divide in Cambodia. Second, Nop will work with the NGO to help build a mobile app curriculum to measure the STEM identity of students and their instructors. “People with a strong STEM identity believe they can become scientists, engineers, and mathematicians and that they can change the world through their ideas,” said Nop.
Afterwards, when her time in Cambodia has finished, Nop plans to return to school and get a master’s degree in human centered design and engineering from the UW in Seattle. This decision is a continuation of Nop’s goal. “By advancing my education I’ll be better able to help make computer science curriculum more culturally competent and accessible for women and people of color,” she said.
Nop plans to keep a blog about her time in Cambodia. She believes a written record will help with her research and with documenting her own personal change. “I’m excited for this journey,” she said. “So many brilliant and forward thinking people have paved the way for me. I want to pay it forward and continue to advocate so that everyone can have equal opportunities.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org