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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.

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333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
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News & Articles

August 1, 2023 |

2023 Cecilia Galvin Scholarship Winner Focusing on the Intersection of Tech and Healthcare

Sirihaasa Nallamothu, the 2023 CompTIA ChannelPro Cecilia Galvin Scholarship Winner, aspires to put computer science and machine learning to work solving chronic illnesses.

A LEGO robotics team at her middle school in Normal, Ill., caught Sirihaasa (“Siri”) Nallamothu’s eye in sixth grade and she’s been on the path toward a STEM career ever since. “That was my first exposure to not only the STEM part, but also how important it is to work with the team to build in tech, and I got really invested into it. From there I branched into computer science and learning different coding languages to accomplish what I want,” says Nallamothu, who is the recipient of this year’s Cecilia Galvin Scholarship, an annual award given to a talented young woman pursing an education in science or technology.

The $5,000 scholarship is named in memory of the late Cecilia Galvin, executive editor at The ChannelPro Network and a passionate champion of women in tech, and is given in partnership with ChannelPro and CompTIA.

Nallamothu will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall to study computer science, with a long-term goal of integrating her knowledge into bioinformatics, healthcare, and medicine.

A graduate of University High School, a lab school in Normal, Nallamothu has already started laying the groundwork for her goal. In high school, as part of an independent study program and in partnership with Illinois State University, she developed an algorithm with her high school computer science teacher and research adviser to predict fainting in people who suffer from a heart disease called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). As the lead researcher, Nallamothu secured ISU Institutional Review Board approval, venture capital research grants, and data collection devices; recruited participants via national POTS support groups; and collected physiological data.

The impetus for her project was a video she saw on social media of a young woman suffering from POTS. It caught her attention and pulled her heartstrings.

“I realized that there’s actually not a lot of research out there, and there’s not a lot of consumer products out there. So, I decided, why don’t I use my machine learning skills to predict the onset of fainting two minutes in advance so people with POTS can get to a safe position,” Nallamothu explains.

“We spent two years collecting data,” she continues, “and just a month ago we wrapped on our algorithm and we’re trying to get our research paper published at a conference.” The algorithm, she adds, is “upwards of 80% accuracy, which is really good for a proof-of-concept study.”

She plans to continue this study in college and seek funding, and her long-term vision is to deploy the technology via a smartwatch.

Nallamothu also worked on a second research project in high school to diagnose eye disease. “I used something called model stacking, which is like a different way of approaching machine learning in the classification process. I was able to present my work at an MIT-affiliated conference and then also at a couple of research conferences. So that experience was really rewarding because I not only got to explore machine learning, but I also got to prove a different way to diagnose eye diseases. So that was really cool.”

Peppering her conversation with phrases like “really cool” is a reminder that Nallamothu has just graduated from high school and shared a unique experience with her peers from around the world—the COVID 19 pandemic. Nallamothu attended high school remotely for half her freshman year and all of her sophomore year. While she missed spending time with her friends and acknowledges “binge watching” streaming series like the rest of us, she also used that time at home to teach herself to code.

With that knowledge, she founded The Dream Code Project in partnership with the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois and taught over 30 girls in grades 5-8 how to code in HTML, CSS, Java, Java Script, Python, and basic machine learning.

Nallamothu also served as student body vice president at her high school (2019-2023). In that role, she represented the student body during diversity training and funding meetings and received restorative justice training at the Muhammad Ali Diversity Center.

Finally, concerned that history might not do justice to the pandemic experience, Nallamothu founded The 20-Year Project, a time capsule for the Town of Normal to preserve pandemic memories and artifacts, like the vaccine. “We talked about the 1919 Influenza pandemic [in class] and that got a paragraph in our history textbook. We spent five minutes on it. There are so many parallels between what happened now and what happened a hundred years ago, and I really didn’t want my individual experiences or my fellow classmates’ experiences to be summed up in a paragraph.” She plans to be there in 20 years when the capsule is opened.

In the meantime, count on Nallamothu to keep picking up new skills. “Recently I learned how to roller skate. Next on my bucket list is learning how to rock climb.”

No doubt she will make it to the top of the rock wall—and wherever else she sets her sights.


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