Making NC A&T history

Siobahn Day, a Hillsborough native, recently made history as the first woman to receive her Ph.D. in computer science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Hillsborough native Siobahn Day became the first woman to graduate from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s computer science doctoral program on Thursday, July 5, after successfully defending her dissertation. 

“It’s surreal,” said Day, a Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellow, in a release from NC A&T. “Sometimes you think you aren’t good enough and it’s a lot of pressure but it’s an honor.” 

Day’s doctoral research focused on the authorship of tweets, studies she did alongside her doctoral adviser Mohd Anwar, Ph.D., an associate professor of computer science at NC A&T. 

Their research looked to identify original sources of false news and install preventative measures for this dissemination of information. 

“With the prevalence of fake news, alternative facts, and cyber-crimes it has become increasingly difficult to determine originating sources on online social networks,” Day said. “Basically, by looking at the natural language of tweets, we could tell who the author was.” 

Pinpointing the authorship could help trace back shared information and then show sites or accounts that are more susceptible to receiving and then propagating that information. 

Anwar and Day will continue their research as Day begins work this fall as a professor at UNC-Greensboro.

NC A&T began its computer science doctoral program in 2014, a year before Day entered the program. 

“The number of women in computer sciences is very low and it is tough to be a woman in a male-dominated field,” Day said in a release from NC A&T. “You have to have a certain level of dedication and determination because it can feel unwelcoming. But it is so important because it gives me an opportunity to be a change agent and help change how people see women and African Americans in this field.”

Though Day was keenly aware that she was often the only woman in her doctoral classes, she rarely let this bother her. 

“It’s an increased pressure if you’re the only girl because sometimes some people may have a thought that women can’t perform as well [as men] or they need extra help,” Day said. “It didn’t drive me more, I’m a naturally driven person...But I was there to help them understand that, hey, women are here to perform and we can do it too. They were great though, it was just a little added pressure.”

This drive was instinctual – Day grew up watching her parents excel in the computer science field. Her parents, Mary and Thomas Day, met at and graduated from Orange High School, continuing their careers in technology. Mary worked at IBM for nearly 30 years, while Thomas worked in senior programs at Duke University as Sibohan grew up. 

Siobahn Day grew up on Union Drive down the street form the Orange County Library and attended Cameron Park Elementary, A.L. Stanback Middle, and Orange High Schools. She graduated from Northern Durham High School after moving to the area two years anterior to her graduation.

Day remembers a home where technology was introduced at a young age.

“I was an only child so the computer essentially was my sibling, my friend,” Day laughed. “I started playing lots of video games and building web pages and learning all I could about computers. When you have the technology at home it’s so much easier to play around and get used to it.”

This childhood forged a path that would result in a historic distinguishment. 

Day received her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Winston-Salem State University in 2005. There, she was mentored by Elva Jones, the first African American woman to obtain her doctorate in engineering and computer studies at North Carolina State University in the 1970s. After receiving her doctorate, Jones returned to Winston Salem State University, her alma mater, where she currently sits as the Computer Science Department Chair.

Upon completion of her undergraduate studies, Day moved to Durham where she worked at North Carolina Central University, during which she received her masters in information science from the university in 2009. 

In the past three years, Day worked to receive her masters and doctorate of philosophy in computer science from North Carolina A&T.

In the fall, she will begin as a lecturer at UNC-Greensboro.

Though she excels in her career, her service and involvement is widespread across many organizations and technology conferences. 

She previously served as an adjunct instructor for various computer science courses at several colleges and universities including Elon University, Durham Technical Community College, and ITT Technical Institute. 

In 2015, Day founded Dreams Creative Group, LLC, which “offers unique web and graphic design solutions to individuals and institutions,” her website notes. 

She has and continues to deliver presentations across a range of technology subjects at national and regional conferences. 

Day serves as a volunteer for many organizations including Boy Scouts of America, FIRST North Carolina, and Girl Scouts of America. She works with an organization called “Black Girls Code,” which works to introduce African American girls to science, technology, engineering, and mathematic skills. Recently, Day served as a programming instructor for “All Girls can Engineer: Girl Scouts Day,” at NC A&T. In 2017, she was an instructor at the INTech Camp for Girls at the Fall Region 2 National Society of Black Engineers Conference in Greensboro.