Mira Yang, an 11th grade student at Union County Magnet High School in NJ, USA and OpenMRS community member has won the 2016 Google Code-In Grand Prize! Miss Yang is a volunteer with the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, and a local hospital for children with special needs, who wants to use her computer science skills to assist diagnosing and treating patients in the field of medicine.
What sparked your interest in computer science?
I was first introduced to computer science during my internship last year at a medical lab in New York City when I used commands in the program ICM for protein modeling. Before that, I always thought that computer science was too difficult and wasn’t something I was interested in. However, once I learned that computer science was prevalent in nearly every STEM field, including biochemistry and the health sciences, I became more open to learning new languages and new programming techniques.
Part of my school curriculum, I took an intro level programming class last semester, where I learned Python and how to use GitHub. Learning Python became just like learning Spanish or French or Chinese; it could unlock doors to many new experiences. Although it was quite challenging at first, the satisfaction I received after running my code and seeing it perform just how I instructed it to was more than enough to keep me excited to learn more and take on new, seemingly daunting tasks…like participating in Google Code-In.
When did you first learn about Google Code In and OpenMRS, and why did you to become involved in the community?
I learned about Google Code In from an assembly at my school and from my programming instructor. Another student from my school was a Grand Prize Winner last year, and my programming teacher promised that for each task I completed, I would receive extra credit in her class. However, I soon discovered that Google Code In was more than just a race to complete the most tasks; it was a supportive community that fostered learning and creativity.
I chose OpenMRS because it is a non-profit dedicated to providing electronic medical records to developing countries, which is perfectly aligned with my other interest in the health sciences. The summer before my sophomore year (10th grade) in high school, I was an intern at a local hospital, where I manually filed and prepared medical records for scanning and database imputation. The hospital was just transitioning from paper to electronic, and I was part of the transition effort. The process was quite tedious, and papers were often misplaced or poorly sorted; hence, the need for purely electronic medical records. I’m also a huge advocate for community service, and the idea of helping developing countries while diving into the computer science field was an opportunity I was unable to pass up.
What role did OpenMRS and its community play in your GCI experience?
The OpenMRS community was what both drew me to GCI and what kept me participating in GCI. I met some incredibly experienced and kind mentors and fellow students during the experience, who supported me and taught me so many things during the competition. I definitely could not have succeeded in the Google Code In competition without them!
What projects have you been working on for OpenMRS and what is the impact you see for each project?
As I am not a very experienced programmer, I decided to take on a variety of tasks that included coding coupled with documentation and research. I created a Gitbook for the REST API, made some edits to openmrs-core on GitHub, and made many instructional videos. However, my largest contributions would probably be translating over 300 strings on the OpenMRS Ref App to Mandarin (previously very few strings had been translated), with all of them being approved, and also “cleaning up” the OpenMRS Wiki. I really enjoyed reading articles on the Wiki while simultaneously fixing grammatical errors and typos. Although I don’t know many programming languages, I was able to use my English and Mandarin abilities to contribute to OpenMRS nonetheless.
What specifically do you want to achieve with a future in computer science, and why is that important to you?
I’ve wanted to be a physician ever since taking a biology class in my freshman year, but after Google Code In, I know now that I want to combine computer science with the health sciences and be more than a traditional physician. In college, I hope to study computational biology or receive a dual degree in computer science and biology. Using my computer science knowledge, I hope to treat patients in the future with a new perspective as well as contribute to the development of medical software with both the perspective of the patient and the programmer in mind. Already, medicine and computer technologies are combining, as seen through a variety of programs that allow doctors to label and document a patient’s ailments as well as send prescriptions straight to their pharmacies. Each and every day, new technology revolutionizes the field of medicine, and I want to be part of both the team of innovators and practitioners who have the ability to mobilize new technological advancements.
About Mira Yang
Something people don’t know about her is that she’s a vegetarian and is deathly afraid of fish. “I’m super scared of fish in general,” states Yang. She adds “…pictures of fish, fish that are alive, fish that are dead…if a fish touched me while swimming, it would all be over lol”
She hopes to inspire fellow women to pursue computer science or related fields, as in her opinion, knowledge of today’s technology is useful regardless of one’s field of interest. Technology and computer science is the future, and females should not be left behind in the innovation process!