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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

2010 Graduate Valkyrie Savage Works at Making Computing More Accessible

When Valkyrie Savage graduated from IU in 2010 with a BS in computer science, a BA in mathematics, and minors in psychology and Spanish, she had already compiled an impressive resume: she had interned at Google, been a guest researcher in Germany and worked as an undergraduate instructor for a number of courses.

"By the time I left IU, I was impressed by all of the resources and all of the people that it had," Savage said.

She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at U.C. Berkeley.

"I'm working on 3-D printing and trying to make digital design and also electronics design more accessible to people who don't know about programming or electronics, necessarily," Savage said.

This research falls in line with her focus on human-computer interaction. Savage originally came to IU for linguistics, and with her minor in psychology, pulls her varied interests into her technological work.

"I'm tired of computer science and math as an end goal," Savage said. "I feel it needs to come back around to people, ultimately."

Even as an undergraduate, Savage combined her many interests. For her research internship in Germany, which was funded in part by an HHC grant, she worked on a project at the intersection of linguistics and computer science. Her research involved finding an automatic way to scan a text to generate key words for indexing, rather than having it necessary for a person go through texts manually to design indexes.

At IU, Savage said, she benefited from a strong support system and opportunities for networking. Professor Geoffrey Brown was very supportive and wrote recommendation letters for the internship in Germany and for U.C. Berkeley, Savage noted. She also appreciated the smaller honors courses.

"Being able to have the opportunity to develop my ideas in a seminar-style situation, as opposed to just doing cookie-cutter assignments, has contributed a lot to me being able to formulate research questions and explore things I'm interested in now," Savage said.

Savage has a number of hobbies outside her research, as well. Recently married, Savage designs educational games with her husband, which they make available through GitHub, a web-based hosting service for software development.

She's also an avid cyclist - after graduation, she went with her then-boyfriend on a 6.5-month trip cycling across Europe, from Copenhagen to Portugal to Turkey.

"We've been tied to these tiny machines for four years, and suddenly, there was no electricity and Internet and you couldn't talk to anyone - what do you do?" Savage said. "You enjoy the scenery and hope you don't die."

After all, their tent was nearly washed away by a flood, and they were nearly blown off cliffs a few times. Still, Savage found the trip to be a fun-filled escape from technology. For the moment, however, she's back to her research.

After earning her Ph.D., Savage said, she's not quite sure what her next step will be. She might form a startup company "just because this is the Bay Area and that's what people do. But I do love teaching. I actually spent a lot of time teaching at IU, and it's something I really like, so I'll probably come back to it."

Celia Grundman '14

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