A true-blue Boilermaker: learn how one Purdue alumna made the giant leap from student to professor, completing all her degrees at Purdue
Dr. Tatiana Ringenberg is a true-blue Boilermaker. She completed all her degrees at Purdue, including an undergraduate, masters, and PhD, in the Computer Information Technology program. “I graduated with my PhD in 2021 from Purdue Polytechnic,” shared Dr. Ringenberg. Now, she is an assistant professor in Purdue’s Computer Information Technology department. In the interview below, you can learn more about Dr. Ringenberg’s path to Purdue, why she stuck around, and her next giant leap!
Tell us about your path to Purdue…
I came to Purdue as an undergrad. While I grew up in Florida, I was very aware of Purdue because I was interested in engineering. Purdue had an amazing engineering program, and I knew from a young age that I wanted to be in STEM. My parents are also both from the Midwest and had gone to Indiana University. I didn’t plan to stay [at Purdue] for my master’s or my PhD. However, I started doing research with a professor in my junior year because she often discussed her research in our class, and it seemed interesting. I ended up loving research, which convinced me to stay.
What was your experience at Purdue like?
My experience at Purdue was great! I think I liked each degree program (undergrad, master’s, PhD) better than the last. They all offered really interesting challenges. Each of the degrees I did at Purdue taught me that I could push myself to do just a little more than I thought I was capable of doing. Purdue, as a whole, does a great job of pushing its students to get out of their comfort zones to find their talents.
Did you have a mentor at Purdue that impacted you?
I’ve had many mentors at Purdue. I would say they all impacted me in such meaningful ways that it’s difficult to pick one. Dr. Alejandra Magana was the professor who taught me to do research during my undergraduate. I was having a very difficult time fitting into the program and finding my own interests. Dr. Magana gave me opportunities to do research, outside of the classroom, which let me explore various facets of technology. It not only helped me to understand the relevance of my coursework but also helped me find my passion for research.
Dr. Julia Rayz and Dr. Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar were my graduate advisors. They were both endlessly supportive and patient. They helped me refine my research skills and pushed me to try new things like presenting at conferences and workshops, even when I was terrified. Having three strong female mentors throughout my time at Purdue helped shape my career and showed me that I was capable, even when I felt like an imposter.
In my final year, I also met Dr. Lisa Nielsen who taught a grant writing and fellowships course for graduate students. Dr. Nielsen took the time to work with me outside of the class as I was searching for an academic position. The skills I learned from working with Dr. Nielsen helped me bridge the gap from a PhD student to an assistant professor.
What did you participate in at Purdue (beyond academics) that helped shape your experience?
During my graduate work, I worked full-time in the cyber security industry to pay for school. Even though it was a lot of work, I don’t regret it. I gained experience in industry which I am now able to bring back to my students and mentees.
What did you learn here that you still use every day?
It may sound silly, but during my graduate work, I learned how to quickly find, read, and ingest new data. Finding valid resources for a topic you are interested in can be very difficult. There are so many sources of new information and new data online all the time – critically thinking about data sources, their origins, and whether or not you can trust them is essential. Critically acquiring and analyzing new information was fundamental to my graduate journey, and I use those skills constantly whether at home or in my own research.
What’s one thing you’re really excited about right now?
Through my research, I try to encourage people to be more empathetic by understanding the biases and misperceptions of others that they may carry with them. I am incredibly excited about the evolution and growth of social platforms in the last decade. Apps like TikTok and experiences like VR provide us with new ways to share our insights, experiences, challenges, frustrations, and successes with one another. I am excited, as a researcher, to better understand how we can use these platforms as positive tools to promote equity and inclusion through awareness.
What’s your next giant leap?
In my current work, I am looking into misperceptions and biases which make it difficult for parents to identify the risks their children face online. For instance, many individuals perceive their male children as being unlikely to be cyber bullied or exploited online because they are male. However, this is not the case. If we can help parents, and other caregivers, to see and get past those biases, we can help them. My goal is to help provide training and awareness to families who may not have previously had access to training on the risks children face online. I want to empower parents and caregivers to foster resilience, against online threats, in their children.
If you could share one piece of advice with Boilermakers, what would it be?
At this point, I’ve been able to play both roles at Purdue: the student and the professor. What this has shown me is that the professors at Purdue really care about their students. As a student, I don’t know how I would have gotten by without my mentors. If you are having problems, whether it be in a course or at home, reach out to your professors, your advisors, and your mentors as soon as you can. As students, we often see a professor as more of a construct than a person. We’re terrified to talk to them. However, they’re human. They care about your success and your well-being. There is never anything wrong with seeking support.
September 14, 2022