Please tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?

Computer scientist Sreeranjani (Jini) Ramprakash says she became hooked on computers in childhood. Her team at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility helps scientists worldwide use the facility’s supercomputers.

Sreeranjani (Jini) Ramprakash is a technical support specialist at the Argonne National Laboratory’s Leadership Computing Facility, where IBM supercomputers are managed for scientific research. Ramprakash leads a team of user experience analysts in support of researchers worldwide.

Jini is passionate about encouraging girls and young women to pursue professions in STEM fields. She regularly mentors and participates in organizing Argonne’s initiatives to introduce girls and young women to these fields.

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Tell us about your career path

Before joining Argonne, Jini was a resident associate with the Grid Infrastructure Group within the TeraGrid organization at the University of Chicago’s Computation Institute. Earlier, she worked for Univa Corporation, a startup firm, first as a support engineer and later as a software engineer.

What did you study?

Jini has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from Mangalore University in India and a master’s degree in computer science and engineering from the University of Texas, Arlington. She devotes her spare time to family and her two small children.

What inspired you to work in STEM?

I started interacting with computers in computer class when I was about ten years old, playing a video game with monkeys climbing trees for coconuts. It only got more interesting over time. From projects that created stick figures teaching yoga to kids in high school to assembling personal computers with my brother for my dad’s company, I was hooked before I could say “college.”

A math teacher in grade school somehow saw potential in me before I saw it in myself and helped me get the confidence I needed. That one year in grade school changed the course of my entire education. Thanks to this experience, I am constantly looking for ways to pay it forward.

What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?

Reading about all the amazingly significant work that researchers at the Department of Energy do, and having the ability to help these researchers in any small way is what I view as my contribution to science.

Knowing I will probably never contribute enough to science to rise to the level of a Nobel laureate, I’m always thrilled at the possibility that I might assist in the success of people who do rise to those levels. The significance of the grand-challenge problems that researchers bring to the Leadership Computing Facility and attempt to solve here does not escape me.

How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?

Exposure has immense impact on young minds. So does availability of resources. Most underrepresented groups do not get the opportunity to interact with successful STEM professionals from their group. Young women and girls are naturally influenced by the choices that are presented when they look around them. We can improve involvement in STEM careers by making the available options more flexible and providing young people with role models in these careers that they can identify with.

Knowing a field exists is one step. Knowing someone in that field that you can talk to about it, is a bigger step towards encouraging the next generation to pursue STEM careers.

Do you have tips you’d recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

Yes. Don’t let the quest for perfection prevent you from entering STEM fields. You do not have to be tough as nails to be in computer science or engineering. You don’t need to know all the answers, either. Initiative is the key to success.

When you have free time, what are your hobbies?

I have two little children and in my free time I like exploring the world through their eyes. My curious six-year-old daughter loves explanations about how things work and my two-year-old son loves to explore and push boundaries as much as possible.

I also garden in my spare time, here at Argonne. Lately, gardening with my daughter has become a favorite activity. I constantly look for opportunities to pay it forward as well, so I get involved with school teachers through the National Lab Network and review scholarship applications for the Grace Hopper Conference. I am on the organizing committee for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and I volunteer for Science Careers in Search of Women.