Meet Celia Chen, DMA Programming Instructor

By Phill Powell

This past summer, Celia Chen was a favorite instructor for the Introduction to Programming with Java, Advanced Java courses, and various DMA programming courses. Currently, she is a first-year PhD student in computer science at the University of Southern California and an accomplished game designer. We caught up with Cecilia to talk about her passion for tech.

Celia Chen
Celia Chen is pursuing her dream career in computer science.

What first got you interested in computer science?
Growing up, my parents always told me that girls should be accountants or nurses. Since I am too afraid of blood, business was the major I picked when I first started college. However, I found myself growing extremely bored in my economics class. After speaking with my advisor, she suggested I try taking a programming class, since I was very good at math.

So I enrolled in a Python class to just try it out. In that class, I learned how to think like a computer and how to communicate with a computer. At the end of the class, I made a Pokemon battle game for my final project. Since I really enjoyed the class and the programming, I decided to switch from business to computer science in my sophomore year.

You’re finishing up a Masters degree and starting a PhD. What’s been your primary area of research and could you share what it’s like to be a woman in CS in an academic setting?
My primary research lies in the Systems and Software Engineering area. Currently, I am part of a project that explores the quality attributes of software projects. Most of my colleagues are guys, which can be a little intimidating. But there are lots of resources for women in CS (such as the Grace Hopper Conference, Women in Computer Science group, etc.) to encourage women to stay in CS and become part of this awesome field.

You will see how fun, collaborative and creative computer science is!

What’s something about computer science or tech that you think would be surprising to somebody just coming into it?
Computers are not human, so sometimes it’s very hard to communicate with them. I often get frustrated when I can’t figure out what went wrong in my program. But once I fix all the bugs and see my program running, that’s the most fun and rewarding moment.

What do you find most challenging and what do you find most fun and rewarding about CS?
A lot of people think computer science is boring and hard because all you do is type unreadable words on your computer. And you might think that way when you first start to program. However, after you learn the meaning of those words and symbols, you will see how fun, collaborative and creative computer science is!

Do you have any advice for girls who are interested in CS/Tech but don’t know where to start?
Enroll in a DMA class and start coding now!


Made by Girls
Celia Chen is a great example of a multi-talented woman pursuing computer science and trying to improve modern living by creating better software.

Digital Media Academy’s Made by Girls is a technology camp exclusively for girls, and the goal is to use project-based, hands-on learning to help girls prepare for their future and careers.

DMA is offering two new Made by Girls camp programs, in addition to the Introduction to Programming with Java course. DMA also offers an Adventures in Soccer, Photography and Graphic Design camp for younger girls aged (8-12).