SCIS World Ahead Graduates

Alumni, Student Highlight

Photo of Sheila Alemany and Cesia Bulnes

Summer 2019

Photo of Julian Alarcon

Julian Alarcon

Julian Alarcon’s mother, migrated from Colombia 19 years ago and a few years later brought her son to the United States for a better future. At FIU, Julian worked as an IT specialist for the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work. Jose Maldonado, a former Worlds Ahead graduate introduced Julian to FIU’s chapter of Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE). Where Julian became director of UPE’s Advance Program, Julian’s mission was to provide students with all the resources they needed to succeed in the workforce. As a liaison between the College of Engineering & Computing’s career services team and students, Julian helped more than 100 students land jobs and internships. His determination and hard work helped UPE grow from 100 members to 500 and receive more than $100,000 in sponsorship money from top tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Julian was also a founding member of UPE’s SparkDev program, through which students work on projects that include virtual reality and artificial intelligence. After graduation, Julian will join Google’s Information Technology Residency Program in Mountain View, California.

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Photo of Samira Pouyanfar

Samira Pouyanfar

Samira led several graduate students working on the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model (FPHLM). A multi-million-dollar project funded by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and used by the State of Florida, FPHLM uses a computer model to assess hurricane risks and to project annual expected insured residential losses in Florida. Samira also led a research collaboration with Farelogix, where she developed new data models to optimize airline revenue management for the company and help it generate dynamic offers for customers.

Samira also completed an internship at the Volkswagen Research Lab in Silicon Valley, where she proposed applying deep learning, a novel technology in artificial intelligence, to self-driving cars. The project led to a patent, which is pending. Her research on multimedia and artificial intelligence has been featured in 30 high-quality journals and conferences and has been cited over 250 times by researchers worldwide. Samira helped launch the Computer Science Graduate Student Association at FIU, where she served as vice-president. Samira has accepted a senior-level data science position at Microsoft in Seattle. She will be one of 70 data scientists companywide on the data and intelligence team.

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Spring 2019

Photo of Sheila Alemany

Sheila Alemany

Receiving accolades from top researchers and mentors as a dedicated, talented, creative researcher/natural leader. She began research in 2016 through FIU’s Discovery Lab and Telecomm & Information Technology Institute. In 2018 she was internationally recognized by the Computing Research Association (CRA) as an Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Finalist. She was first author on a conference paper in a top artificial intelligence conference (AAAI) and completed a research internship at MIT’s Lincoln Lab.

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Photo of Cesia Bulnes

Cesia Bulnes

Throughout her undergraduate experience here at Florida International University, she has had leadership in 3 clubs/organizations.
Association of Computing Machinery (event coordinator), Mangohacks 2018 (Director of the spring 600+ person hackathon), and Women in Computer Science (Treasurer, Mentor program coordinator, and graphic designer). She has gone out of my way to bring recruitment to FIU, and started the idea of hosting onsite interviews at Mangohacks in 2018, which got around 10 students employed with internships/fulltime offers. She is the 2018 recipient for the Honors Dean of Excellence award!

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Fall 2018

Photo of Cesar Villa-Garcia, FIU Worlds Ahead Graduate

Cesar Villa-Garcia

At age 10, he came to the U.S. from his native Peru, and taught himself how to code and design. By middle school, he was developing websites and creating computer graphics. After graduating from Miami-Dade College, he took three years off to save money and help his family financially.

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Summer 2018

Photo of Lisa Richardson

Lisa Richardson

Started working straight out of high school running blueprints for an electronics company. She rose to electromechanical designer, working on CAD software.

The mother of four opted to stay at home after having her third child. But she never stopped learning. Lisa taught herself programming and web development, and when her youngest child started elementary school, she went to Miami Dade College and earned her associate degree in computer engineering. 

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Fall 2017

Photo of Jose Maldonado

Jose Maldonado

In middle school, Jose began playing the cello and guitar, creating experiences as a musician. When he won first place in his high school’s talent show for a music performance, he felt confident enough to achieve anything he challenged himself to do. After that, he decided to pursue computer science, influenced by art.

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Spring 2016

Shonda and Shalisha Witherspoon create a path for women in Tech | School of Computing and Information Sciences 2

Shonda and Shalisha Witherspoon

They are more than sisters; they are a team. From being homeschooled to attending college – they have remained side by side. Their educational journey will culminate in them graduating together with bachelor’s degrees in information technology – and 3.95 GPAs, the highest in the College of Engineering and Computing for spring commencement.

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Summer 2015

Photo of Absalom Lwande

Absalom Lwande

Growing up in Kenya in a family of limited resources. At 18, he moved to the United States to reunite with his father. Inspired by his uncle’s success as a lawyer, Absalom began attending Miami Dade College and later transferred to FIU.

As soon as he began college, Absalom discovered the Army ROTC program and decided to pursue a commission in the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant.

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Spring 2015

Photo of Jorge Hernandez

Jorge Hernandez

At 49 years old, and diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that may lead to blindness, at 12 years old. But the drastic change to his vision happened at 21 years old as a result of a cycling accident where he was struck by a driver and left on the side of the road. Following the accident, his vision went from 20/40 to 20/200 (legally blind) in a matter of six months. But his visual impairment didn’t get in the way of his studies.

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Fall 2014

Photo of Hien Nguyen

Hien Nguyen

He spent his childhood in the countryside with his mom and sister until they could reunite with his father and brothers and move to Ho Chi Minh City. Throughout those tough times, Hien held fast to one goal: to achieve scores on required high school exams to make possible his pursuit of higher education at a top institution.

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Summer 2014

Photo of Fausto Fleites

Fausto Fleites

Born and raised in Havana, Cuba. Taught himself how to write computer programs. Studied Computer Science in Havana University. In 2004, left Cuba. Despite language challenges, Fausto graduated with a 3.99 GPA. Technical leader for a FIU large-scale computer model to assess hurricane risks and to project annual expected insured residential losses in Florida.

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