Missouri State University
Jeniya Sultana

Jeniya Sultana

Finding her voice among future programmers

Jeniya Sultana may be a shy person, but she is not timid in the world of technology.

Sometimes it takes an introvert to be the expert.

Jeniya Sultana is the perfect representation of this concept.

Sultana is usually quiet and reserved, but as a student in Missouri State's computer science graduate program, she has has a strong passion to engage with others in her field.

While living in Chittagong, Bangladesh, she earned her bachelor's degree in computer science.

"...I had a deep love for computer science programming, and also, especially for research," Sultana said.

In fall 2022, she followed her interests to MSU as an international student.

"Back in Bangladesh, I used to teach programming to undergrad students, but then I wanted to make some more advanced steps. I wanted to take a more advanced degree," Sultana said. "And then, when I was talking with my friends and family first, I had a friend of mine here. So that is the first reason why I chose Missouri State University."

Another reason was because she saved money on tuition after securing a graduate assistantship position under the guidance of Dr. Razib Iqbal, an associate professor of computer science.

"I got a chance to work with [Dr. Iqbal] very closely. He helped me in every way in Missouri State University regarding my coursework or cases and everything," she said.

Using technology to make a difference

Sultana's experience in computer science has shown her how she can be part of a solution.

"When I am doing something in programming or in research, it feels like I am doing something for people."

She enjoys getting to work with gadgets and technology, knowing that these tools can provide greater accessibility to users.

A smart sensor, for instance, can interpret data in the environment to understand a person's need and automatically respond to it, like turning on a light in a home.

"Whenever [there's] any project or anything that I am trying to do, it feels like these are for people," Sultana said. "This is one thing that really attracts me to computer science."

Mentoring is a win-win-win

As a CODERS mentor, she provides academic support for students and teachers from rural Missouri schools during monthly workshops hosted at MSU.

"We all try to give them a glimpse of how computer science works based on computational  thinking, and then we also try to help them prepare lesson plans for their schools, so they got to do some programming," she said.

She has enjoyed seeing the transfer of knowledge pass from her to the teachers to the students.

Earlier this year, Sultana assisted during the Coding Olympiad, a programming competition at the Plaster Student Union for young students in Missouri schools.

"I want to give a chance [for] me to be in academia," she said. "Honestly, I want to see how I can teach people. I really like teaching people."

Building a system of confidence

Sultana studies in the MuSyC Lab, short for Multimedia Systems and Communication.

"We get to work there as a team, and we kind of criticize each other's works and give comments that help each other," Sultana said. "That's also a very good experience, and it really gives an idea how I will be working in the future."

For the second time in her college career, she recently gave a poster presentation at the annual Frank Einhellig Graduate Interdisciplinary Forum (EIDF), an event to showcase the research of graduate students in various disciplines.

"I am kind of an introverted person, but how my professors, faculty and the opportunities MSU gave...that's tremendous. So, when I tried to do the poster presentation, the EIDF in 2023...it really gave me some confidence. It felt like I can do something," she said.

After she graduates in December 2024, Sultana plans to earn a PhD in computer science.

Her goal is to pursue an industry job in research and development, but she is also considering teaching in higher education.

She credits her instructors for preparing her for success in her industry.

"I cannot say enough thank you to MSU, honestly. I used to be very nervous about my work, and I used to be very introverted. I used to be a very shy person," Sultana said. "I had a lack of confidence, but after I came to MSU, with my thesis supervisor's guidance and everything, all the opportunities MSU gave me, it felt like I am kind of prepared for my next step."