In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.
Elon College Fellow and Multifaith Scholar Katherine Grant ’22 used her computer science major to examine how extremist groups use social media.
Her research specifically looked at Christian Identity, a hate group with racist and antisemitic beliefs also linked to terrorist acts, combining her interest in religious studies with computer science.
She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Theta Alpha Kappa honor societies and was named to the president’s list each of semester of her four years. Grant also served as a tutor for several computer science courses beginning her first year.
How did you choose to major in computer science?
I had taken AP Computer Science in high school and enjoyed it, but entered college undecided. After taking CS230 the fall of my first year, I realized I wanted to declare as computer science. I have enjoyed how exciting the problem solving process is for computer science assignments, and how creative you can be.
What was your research experience like? How did working with a faculty mentor advance your achievement?
As an Elon College fellow, I entered Elon knowing I would conduct a two-year research project. I ended up working with Dr. Megan Squire on my project, titled “Social Network Analysis of Christian Identity Hate Groups.”
When selecting my project, I interviewed many of the professors in the computer science department and would repeatedly talk about my interests for an interdisciplinary project, hopefully something that involved history. All of the professors pointed me in the direction of Dr. Squire and I was able to hop on a project with her
I worked closely with Dr. Squire since the spring of my sophomore year. This relationship helped me grow greatly, both as a computer scientist and researcher, and it was a privilege to learn social network analysis techniques from Dr. Squire.
I presented my research at SURF Day both this year and last year, as well as the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research and the American Academy of Religion Southeast Region’s annual conference.
What are your post-graduation plans?
I will be working as an associate software engineer at Lowe’s Companies Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina.
What has been the most rewarding part of your Elon experience?
I think the Multifaith Scholars program and my interreligious studies minor have been most valuable to me in my time at Elon. Every single religious studies class I have taken at Elon has been amazing and I can tell that each professor cares. From taking Human Geography with Dr. Marshall, to Magic and Islamic Traditions with Dr. Marcus-Sells, to Christian Traditions with Dr. Huber and Interreligious Encounters with Dr. Orr. Many of these courses required site visits to different religious traditions, and I have been able to form a relationship with members of the Burlington mosque through the Multifaith Scholars program.
I have felt myself grow immensely in my knowledge of other cultures and how to encounter different cultures and traditions, which will be useful regardless of the profession one pursues.
What advice would you offer future Elon students?
Take up every opportunity that comes your way, because you never know where it might lead you. Also don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors for a meal or coffee to talk about what you’re interested in, because it could always lead to research or job opportunities later on.