When people ask Tina VanRiper what she did over her summer vacation, she has plenty of room to brag, but she doesn’t.
VanRiper, a computer science senior at Weber State, worked with two of her computer science professors developing a system to convert MRI images into 3-D objects for a medical company in Chicago. The work she did with Associate Professor Brian Rague and Assistant Professor Yong Zhang could help reduce the need for animal testing.
For her work, VanRiper was honored by the Women Tech Council with its Award for Academic Excellence. She is one of the first undergraduates to be given the award.
“Her winning this award clearly demonstrates the quality of our students’ work, in both contributing to research efforts and overall academic achievement,” Rague said.
VanRiper said it was a really great project, because it sets up a base for other researchers. Other researchers can pick up where she left off and devise ways to use the simulations for testing.
“Tina was very dedicated to the project, and she is an overall great student,” Rague said. “She went above and beyond your typical student.”
It’s not just her research that brought the recognition, Rague said.
VanRiper describes herself as a firm believer of charity and service work. She has volunteered for Boys and Girls Clubs setting up computer networks and created a website for a teacher at a community college. She also has published a phone app.
Being introduced at a young age to computers, VanRiper decided early on that she wanted to work in computer science.
“I always just naturally got along with computers,” VanRiper said. “I’ve always been comfortable with technology.”
The award surprised VanRiper.
“I was in shock. I know everyone says that, but I really was in shock,” she said. “There were a lot of really great candidates.”
Rague agreed, but added that VanRiper was deserving among that group. “She was competing with very successful and accomplished student peers and was recognized as the top student from this prestigious group.”
The Salt Lake City-based Women Tech Council was founded in 2007 to provide mentoring, visibility and networking for women in technology.
Partnering with the council is important to WSU’s computer science department, Rague said.
“The computer science department takes female representation very seriously,” he said. “In some ways, the award also confirms the commitment of Weber State computer science to the advancement of women in our discipline. Our female students are outstanding, as Tina demonstrated.”
VanRiper is looking forward to getting MBA, and will be applying to BYU’s program after she has received her bachelor’s degree in computer science at Weber State University.