Srishti Palani ’18

Srishti Palani ’18

Name: Srishti Palani ’18

Hometown:  Bangalore, India

Major: computer science and psychology double major; Five College Certificate in cognitive neuroscience

Campus involvement: Over my four years here, I have been passionate about bridging the gender gap in the tech industry. Toward this, I helped found and co-chaired the Mount Holyoke College Girls in Tech Conference, a day-long conference dedicated to inspiring high school girls in New England to explore technology through engineering and entrepreneurship.

Additionally, as the senior community advisor of the lovely Abbey and Buckland halls, I enjoy engaging with the vibrant diversity on campus. As a Harriet Newhall Fellow in the Office of Admission, I like sharing my Mount Holyoke experience with prospective students and their families.  

Proudest accomplishment at Mount Holyoke: Having my research recognized by the Computing Research Association (CRA), a top organization in computer science research. I was a top-three finalist for the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award for my research designing wearable assistive technology for the visually-impaired that enables them to independently engage in social interactions.

I could not have done it if my research advisor and mentor, Professor Barbara Lerner (associate professor of computer science), had not believed in me and encouraged me to apply, along with the support of my professors who not only taught me how to research, but also imparted their passion for research to me. This award was a good affirmation as I start my career and inspired me to continue learning and researching.

How a close connection with a faculty member has shaped you: Coming into Mount Holyoke I definitely did not imagine myself double majoring, let alone in computer science and psychology, and getting a certificate in cognitive neuroscience. Taking Psychology 101 with Professor Mara Breen (assistant professor of psychology and education) as a general requirement course in my first semester completely changed my perspective and my time here. Chatting with Professor Breen after class and attending her office hours revealed a passion for psychology and cognitive neuroscience that I did not know I had.

That first semester, I got involved in her lab performing really cool experiments to understand the brain waves that are produced during speech processing, and I stayed in the Cognitive Attention Perception and Speech (CAPS) Lab over the next years of college. If I had not taken that first class with Professor Breen, I would not be looking forward to a research career in cognitive science.

Favorite course you thought you might not like: Arts of Asia with Professor Ajay Sinha (chair and professor of art history) taught me to not only appreciate art, but also my own rich cultural heritage and the various other vibrant cultures of Asia. Another unexpectedly great course was Beginning Canoeing, which I took in my first semester. I was skeptical, but it turned out to be one of the best bonding experiences between my roommate and me.

Best takeaway from internship or research experiences: Dream big. Fail fearlessly. Ask questions.

Interning with Girls Who Code, IBM and Bank of America, I developed a deep appreciation for the opportunities and connections that Mount Holyoke provides to explore our strengths and grow from our weaknesses. Mount Holyoke teaches you to never fear change, so I learned to ask questions fearlessly and make mistakes — and learn from them, because no one knows everything. The only way to learn and move forward is by asking and doing.

How Mount Holyoke has shaped your global outlook: Working closely with highly accomplished students from around the world, with vibrant identities and diverse thoughts committed to learning and challenging the status quo, inspires me to look forward to the positive impact that my classmates will make in our global community.

Future plans: I will be moving to California to pursue a research career at the intersection of artificial intelligence and human computer interaction as a doctoral student at the University of California, San Diego.