CSE senior Sanjana Reddy’s undergrad journey includes mentoring youth and working with alumni leaders

Data science student hopes to use AI for future good, to better teach kids

Sanjana Reddy was in middle school when she started coming to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus for accelerated math classes. While the drive from her Apple Valley-Lakeville neighborhood was long, stretching past 30 minutes some days, Reddy kept coming back. 

The professors engaged her. Their impact set the stage for her college journey, which includes developing a knack for transforming big data into valuable insights. 

This May, Reddy is graduating with a degree in data science. In this Q&A, she shares some of her CSE experiences and hopes for the future.

Why did you choose the University of Minnesota? 

Staying close to home was important because it was a Covid year and we really didn’t know then [in 2020] how things were going to unfold—and we didn’t have vaccines yet. Plus, I had formed really close connections with some professors at the U. From eighth grade to senior year of high school, I attended the U of M Talented Youth Mathematics Program. 

"So when I was admitted to the U, it was a no brainer."

What activities or groups are you involved with? 

I became involved with the CSE Alumni Board as a student representative in my junior year after my experiences with the CSE Mentor Program. I joined the mentor program in my sophomore year, and I was fortunate to be paired with a data scientist from Boston Scientific. Since then, I’ve assisted the CSE Mentor Program at events and advising on ways to improve the student experience. 

I was on the University Senate Information Policy Committee last year and that experience gave me good insights on how things work across campuses. For instance, what it takes to create new policies and pass changes to established ones. We also discussed the online platform Canvas and how to make it better for faculty and staff.

Sanjana Reddy in conversation with Mary Kurth and Alyssa Sandholm.
Graduating senior Sanjana Reddy with two of her CSE Alumni Board colleagues—Mary Kurth (Physics '72; left) and board chair Alyssa Sandholm (BME ’14, right)—prior to the April board meeting in Walter Library.

Tell me about your involvement with research and senior projects. 

In my freshman year, I worked with Professor Ingrid Schneider at the U’s Department of Forest Resources. The study looked at Covid compliance on urban park trails. In addition to preparing raw data for analysis, I helped to create graphs and charts that were used in presentations and papers. Right now, I’m working on my capstone project with Advisory Aerospace to develop a way to accurately predict manufacturing lead times. My professor was super helpful in connecting me to this local Minnesota company. The project involves machine learning and AI, both of which I’m very interested in and areas that are growing rapidly. 

Out of all your experiences in CSE, what are you most proud of?

My work with Code the Gap has really resonated with me. I joined the U of M student group as a board member last year. We organized college students to mentor middle and high school students on coding, especially using Python. It’s very rewarding to see more girls get involved in programming.

This is a big deal because this issue resonates with me. It was my first high school job, at 16, that taught me how to code. Without it, I would have never ended up choosing the major that I chose. I know how important it is to expose kids to these things at a young age—so they are not daunted by technology or coding later in life. And I also learned that less than 25 percent of computer scientists are women! So, it's really important to me that we provide these opportunities to young girls.

What are your future plans? 

In the near future, I’m working for Deloitte—consulting in data analytics and IT. For the long-term, I hope to work in using AI to benefit education. 

Any advice for students?

CSE provides so many opportunities to grow no matter what your end goal is, whether that is industry or academia. Take advantage of our college events and resources, like the CSE Mentor Program and student groups. They are a good way to develop yourself outside of classes and homework.

Interview and photos by Pauline Oo.