Chicago Public Schools student Chris Deng pursues internet equity with University of Chicago faculty

chris deng

High school senior Chris Deng became passionate about Internet equity during a year-long research project he just completed with University of Chicago’s Neubauer Professor of Computer Science, Nick Feamster. The goal of the project was to explore how equitable and adequate the Internet is across Chicago Public Schools, which is something that had not been done before. The year-long research collaboration culminated not only in a groundbreaking study about the performance of Internet connectivity of Chicago Public Schools, but also Chris’s passion for computer science; he will be studying computer science at the University of Chicago this coming fall.

Deng’s research builds on the ongoing interdisciplinary Internet Equity Initiative, led by Feamster’s Network Operations and Internet Security (NOISE) Lab and Nicole Marwell, Associate Professor at the Crown School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. The Internet Equity Initiative strives to understand gaps in Internet coverage and develop new strategies to deliver equitable, reliable, affordable Internet access to the city of Chicago, particularly in communities that are underserved by broadband Internet. The efforts utilizes faculty expertise in governance, social science, computer science, computer networking, and technology policy to create a unique approach to an important issue.

Deng, who is in the Collegiate Scholars Program, was first introduced to the Computer Science Department as part of Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) efforts which aim for multi-year sustained engagement of high school students. Chris took multiple BPC courses at the University, including Feamster’s How Your Home Internet Works, from Bits to Policy. Deng had not done research previously, but asked Feamster to mentor him through his senior AP Research class at Walter Payton College Prep in downtown Chicago. He initially found inspiration for his project when Feamster talked about ongoing work with another student, Ranya Sharma, who started research as a high school student and is now a first-year student at the University of Chicago.

“I didn’t really have a solid idea of what I wanted to do for my AP Research class,” recalled Deng. “Then Nick showed us his research with a previous high school student about digital redlining in Chicago and how they used measurement devices to record Internet information across households. I thought it was very interesting and wanted to build on that with a connection that was personal to me: Chicago Public Schools.”

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This story was first published by the University of Chicago Department of Computer Science. 

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